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  • Writer's pictureTodd

Chipotle Sues Sweetgreen

Chipotle filed an interesting trademark infringement lawsuit against Sweetgreen on Tuesday. At first blush, it seemed like Chipotle was arguing they are the only company in the world who can have a Chipotle chicken burrito bowl.

For example, on March 30, 2023, Sweetgreen announced its "Chioptle Chicken Burrito Bowl" using the Instagram post below. In response to a comment stating "Chipotle who?!" Sweetgreen replied "you said it, not us" and included an emoji meant to indicate "zipped lips"

Chipotle argues that Sweetgreen’s “Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl” has the same ingredients as Chipotle’s burrito bows. Does that mean that any dish that uses Chipotle in the name would be trademark infringement?

Chipotle's menu features burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, quesadillas, and salads. Among its menu items, Chipotle's chicken burrito bowls are among its most popular, which are typically made (at the customer's option) with rice, black beans, and salsa. With a link.

Chipotle is also apparently upset that Sweetgreens has a “National Burrito Day.” I don’t think Chipotle has a monopoly on “national” promotion days.

Additional evidence of Sweetgreen's intent to trade off of Chipotle's goodwill exists. For example, Sweetgreen is running a promotional event for the "Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl" on April 6, 2023, purportedly in honor of "National Burrito Day." This promotion is clearly intended to copy and trade off of Chipotle's longstanding "National Burrito Day" promotion.

Chipotle argues that the use of all capital letters and white letters on a red background infringes on their trademarks. They had apparently reached out to Sweetgreen to ask if they could use lower case letters or a description such as “with chipotle flavoring.” Chipotle helpfully suggested that “chicken bowl with chipotle” would be more appropriate. This does seem somewhat reasonable and maybe does suggest that Sweetgreen knows what it’s doing. But I can’t help but feel like this is a big company beating up on a little company.

Sweetgreen displays and uses the term CHIPOTLE® as a trademark, featuring it as the lead word in the item, capitalizing the first letter of the word "Chipotle," and on occasion displaying "CHIPOTLE" in all capital letters. Sweetgreen's use of CHIPOTLE® appears in the absence of any other source-identifying name or trademark, as can be seen in the below pictures from Sweetgreen's website.

What do you think? Does Chipotle have a case? Leave a comment below!

(Also, Q’Doba sounds really good right now!)

Please note that the information contained in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and not as specific legal advice. The facts of your situation may differ from this general information. It is not intended to and does not in any way establish an attorney-client relationship.

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