Chipotle Trademark Dispute – When Does a Word or Symbol Become a Trademark?

April 13, 2023

Last week, Chipotle Mexican Grill sued Sweetgreen Inc. in California federal court claiming the competitor’s new “Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl” violates its trademark rights.  The issue was resolved quickly, probably due to evidence and the expected cost to defend.  However, this begs the question of when a word or symbol becomes a trademark.  As such, I thought it would be good to provide a quick overview of the key intellectual property terms (Trademark, Copyright and Patent).  In addition, over the next few weeks, I will be writing more in depth on each term individually.

  • Trademark – A trademark is any word, symbol, design, or phrase that denotes a specific product and differentiates it from similar products.  A company’s trademark can be legally registered or established by use.
  • Copyrights – A copyright protects an author’s original works such as writings, art, architecture, and music.  Examples can include TV shows, movies, online videos, sound recordings, musical compositions, lectures, articles, photos and books.
  • Patents – A patent is a property right granted by a government authority that provides the holder with exclusive rights to the invention for a certain period of time depending on the type.

If you believe your business needs protections as described above, I’d highly suggest you chat with an experienced intellectual property or business attorney.  If you don’t understand your rights as it relates to IP, it can be a very costly mistake.  Stay tuned for more on this topic in the coming weeks.

Happy Easter and belated Happy Passover!

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