Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., which operates 1,250 “fast-casual” restaurants throughout the United States, has sued The Kroger Co. in Colorado federal court, alleging that the grocery store chain has infringed the CHIPOTLE® trademark by using the descriptor on its spicy fried chicken take-out products. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. v. The Kroger Co, 12-930 (D. Colo., filed April 5, 2012). According to the complaint, Chipotle has invested “tens of millions of dollars” “to create and maintain the goodwill of its CHIPOTLE® national brand,” which evidently includes a commitment to sourcing ingredients “in the most ethical and sustainable manner possible.” In addition to claiming monetary damages, Chipotle argues that Kroger’s use of the word “Chipotle” on its chicken entrée packaging has caused “irreparable harm to the value and goodwill of Plaintiff’s CHIPOTLE® Marks, as well as irreparable harm to Chipotle’s business, goodwill and reputation.”

“Kroger’s use of CHIPOTLE… can only be explained by an intention to wrongfully profit from and trade off of Chipotle’s valuable goodwill and reputation,” states the complaint, which ultimately alleges trademark infringement under 15 U.S.C. § 1114, trademark dilution under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c), false designation of origin under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), and violation of Colorado’s Consumer Protection Act. The company seeks unspecified damages as well as temporary and permanent injunctions enjoining Kroger from using the mark CHIPOTLE or “otherwise competing unfairly or committing any acts likely to confuse the public into believing that Kroger or any of Kroger’s products are associated, affiliated or sponsored by Chipotle or are authorized by Chipotle, in whole or in part, in any way.”

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