Recently, Sweetgreen Inc. (“Sweetgreen”) launched its “Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl.” Within days of the launch, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (“Chipotle”) filed a lawsuit against Sweetgreen alleging trademark infringement. To prevail, Chipotle must show, among other things, that a likelihood of confusion exists for consumers of Sweetgreen and Chipotle relating to the mark for “Chipotle.”
One of the purposes of trademark law is to prevent such consumer confusion, and trademark owners are responsible for policing their own mark(s).
Before things got too spicy, Sweetgreen agreed to rename its dish “Chicken + Chipotle Pepper Bowl.” But this is easier said than done — considering the expenditures necessary to do so, particularly with advertisements and promotion materials.
For those preparing to launch a product or service, this is a good reminder to steer clear of names associated with similar goods and/or services to avoid potential legal troubles. Conducting a thorough trademark search is a great way to discover such marks and is highly recommended before investing time and resources into new ventures.