Check out that smoked hot chili pepper in your hand. Is it a chipotle or a Chipotle pepper? If you want to sell it to someone else as a flavor or otherwise, it darn well better be a chipotle, or Chipotle Mexican Grill will bring the legal hurt. The burrito chain recently settled a lawsuit with Jack in the Box for marketing a “Chipotle Chicken Club Combo” — complete with a “Chipotload of flavor — even though the sandwich was a limited-time deal and isn’t available anymore.
The difference is all in the uppercase and lowercase, so if you’re a business with an uppercase C situation, Chipotle will likely get feisty.
In the Jack in the Box case, as Businessweek points out, the word “Chipotle” was bigger than the rest of the capitalized words and in a similar font to that used by Chipotle, which, Chipotle argued, could lead consumers to think it’s connected to the Mexican food chain.
Exhausting, we know. But it means everything to Chipotle.
“We look at these issues on a case-by-case basis and take action if we feel as if our intellectual property is being infringed upon,” said a spokesman.
This isn’t the first time Chipotle has set its trademark hounds upon an accused infringer: In 2010 it sued an Arkansas restaurant with “Chipotle” in the name, and a judge ordered the defendant to not use any “trademark, service mark, trade name, logo or any other identifying information such as ‘Chipotles,’ ‘Chipotles Grill,’ ‘Chipotles Mexican Grill,’ ‘Chipotles Grill Mexican Restaurante.’”
In 2012, it sued Kroger for its “Chipotle Spicy Fried Chicken,” prompting the grocery chain to change its label.
Now I just really want a burrito, chipotle or Chipotle, I don’t care which. Or both? My brain hurts.
First Rule of Chipotle: You Can’t Call That ‘Chipotle’ [Businessweek]