Chipotle sues Sweetgreen for trademark infringement over ‘chipotle chicken’ bowl

(This Apr. 5 story has been corrected to change jurisdiction in the case caption information)

By Blake Brittain

(Reuters) – Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc sued fast-casual dining rival Sweetgreen Inc in California federal court Tuesday, claiming the salad chain’s new “Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl” violates its trademark rights.

Chipotle’s lawsuit said Sweetgreen’s “very similar and directly competitive” bowl is an attempt to capitalize on the Chipotle brand and likely to confuse consumers.

Sweetgreen said in a statement that it was aware of the lawsuit and does not comment on pending litigation. The company’s stock price was down more than 11% early on Wednesday afternoon.

Chipotle chief corporate affairs officer Laurie Schalow said in a statement that the company will “take appropriate actions whenever necessary” to protect its trademarks.

Sweetgreen announced the bowl in a March 30 press release, describing it as “the latest iteration of Sweetgreen’s menu innovation strategy, as the brand evolves beyond salads to introduce a bowl without any greens.”

Chipotle’s lawsuit said Sweetgreen advertises the bowl using the word “Chipotle” in the same font and style as the Mexican-food chain and uses a background with Chipotle’s trademarked “Adobo Red” color.

The lawsuit said Sweetgreen continued infringing despite a cease-and-desist letter and phone call from Chipotle’s legal department. Chipotle said it suggested changing the name to something that uses “chipotle in lower-case, in a textual sentence, to accurately describe ingredients of its menu item,” like a “chicken bowl with chipotle.”

Chipotle asked the court for an order blocking Sweetgreen from using the “Chipotle” name and an unspecified amount of money damages.

The case is Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc v. Sweetgreen Inc, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, No. 8:23-cv-00596.