Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. is taking its fellow fast casual chain Sweetgreen to federal court over the salad franchise's new "Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl."
Chipotle said in its complaint, filed Tuesday, that Sweetgreen's new menu item constitutes trademark infringement, trademark dilution and deceptive trade practice. The burrito chain also argues that Sweetgreen attempts to profit off Chipotle's near-identical, directly competitive and well-known product.
Sweetgreen said in a statement to NPR that it's aware of the lawsuit, but that it doesn't comment on pending litigation.
The salad chain launched its new menu item in late March as part of the company's expansion beyond green salads and warm grain bowls.
Chipotle said in its lawsuit that "bold chipotle spices" had nothing to do with the inspiration behind the product, as Sweetgreen claimed in a press release.
Among Chipotle's complaints are that Sweetgreen's menu item features similar ingredients to its own, and that Sweetgreen makes "prominent use "of the famous Chipotle trademark in various marketing channels, as well as a font "near identical to Chipotle's stylized logo." The lawsuit also claims Sweetgreen's advertisements feature "a background that is nearly identical to Chipotle's trademarked" Adobo Red color — all with the goal of creating a false association with Chipotle.
Social media accounts associated with Sweetgreen appeared to acknowledge customers' close association between the two companies. In response to a comment on Instagram saying "Chipotle who?!" to Sweetgreen's announcement of the new menu item, the restaurant said, "you said it, not us," and included an emoji meant to indicate "zipped lips," the lawsuit alleges.
Laurie Schalow, Chipotle's chief corporate affairs officer, told NPR the company is "committed to protecting our valuable trademarks and intellectual property. Consistent with that, we will take appropriate actions whenever necessary to protect our rights and our brand."