Update: On Thursday, April 6, Sweetgreen agreed to change the name of its burrito bowl and the lawsuit was dropped.
Chipotle Mexican Grill has sued Sweetgreen for trademark violation less than one week after the Los Angeles-based salad restaurant chain released a new Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl. Chipotle said in the lawsuit, which was filed in California federal court on Tuesday, that the company had sent Sweetgreen a “cease and desist” notice to drop the word “chipotle” from the name of the new menu item but did not receive a reply.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the law firm Holland & Hart, accuses Sweetgreen of marketing and selling the ‘Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl’ which is “very similar” and “directly competitive” with Chipotle’s own chicken burrito bowl. The lawsuit also takes issue with the fact that the marketing for the menu item features a similar font and shade of red that Chipotle Mexican Grill uses and has trademarked, called “Adobo Red.”
Chipotle is asking for a court order that blocks Sweetgreen from using the Chipotle name and seeks an unspecified amount in damages.
“We don’t typically comment on litigation, but we will say generally that we’re committed to protecting our valuable trademarks and intellectual property,” Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs officer for Chipotle said in an emailed statement. “Consistent with that, we will take appropriate actions whenever necessary to protect our rights and our brand.”
Sweetgreen announced the new Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl menu item on March 30, calling it “the latest iteration of Sweetgreen’s menu innovation strategy” to delve into new menu categories, including green-free bowls. Releasing more grain bowls would make Sweetgreen more of a direct competitor with fast-casual burrito bowl giant, Chipotle. The company said that the menu item is named for its “thoughtfully sourced chipotle powder” and is made with blackened chicken, roasted chipotle Salsa, wild rice, cilantro lime black beans, sliced tomatoes, and cabbage “instead of greens” so that it “won’t be confused for a salad.”
Sweetgreen has defended its new menu item but declined to comment directly on the lawsuit:
“We are excited about our new warm bowl featuring a thoughtfully-sourced chipotle powder that provides the perfect slightly spicy, smokey bite,” the company said in an emailed statement.
“We are aware of the lawsuit Chipotle Mexican Grill has filed over the name of our new bowl. However, we do not comment on pending litigation.”
The price of Sweetgreen’s stock tumbled $1.38 after the news of the lawsuit was released.
Contact Joanna at [email protected]