We’ve all seen it advertised on T.V. or when you drive by a local Kentucky Fried Chicken. “Smoky Chipotle” Crispy Chicken is now for sale from Memorial Day through Labor Day and is the third KFC recipe introduced in 68 years (Original Recipe and Extra Crispy are the other two). This is great news you might say if you’re a chili-head because this is spreading the word of spicy foods to a new section of the populous. Good news, save for one man who’s having his product line ruined by their promotion.
Chuck Evans, director of Chuck Evans’ MONTEZUMA Brand is the most prominent figure in North American Chipotle history. He single-handedly introduced and marketed the Chipotle into America’s lime light as a staple spice used in many cross-over cuisines. Such efforts include his wonderfully tasty SMOKEY CHIPOTLE (R) brand of pepper sauces and salsas, the very first Chipotle pepper sauces and salsas manufactured in the United States. Chuck co-authored books titled “The Hot Sauce Bible” and “The Pepper Pantry: Chipotle”, and has made numerous appearances at fiery foods industry events. Chuck also maintains the unique distinction as the sole remaining exhibitor who attended the very first fiery foods trade show held in 1988. He has recently appeared on The History Channel as a guest commentator on the history of hot sauces and salsas in their series: American Eats.
Now here’s the kicker, Chuck had the uncanny foresight to register the catchy phrase, “Smokey Chipotle”, with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Registration No. 1,874,062 filed January 17, 1995. Chuck’s trademark is the very first registration incorporating the word “Chipotle” listed in the USPTO. The USPTO disclaimed the word “Chipotle” where the word is a proper name. Fast forward 10 years of routinely policing his trademark against some of the largest food manufacturers in the world and you’ll find a picture painted of a small business owner diligently protecting his intellectual property rights.
Now, Chuck is faced with the undeniable violation of his trademark by Yum! Brands, Inc., the company that owns Kentucky Fried Chicken. In a recent interview with me, this is what Chuck Evans had to say, “I knew about this the day the 1st commercials aired since I was watching/listening to the television while cooking Smokey Chipotle salsa-true story.”
Yum! Brands, Inc., based in Louisville, Kentucky with 35,000 total restaurant units, owns KFC (14,000 units in world), Taco Bell, Long John Silvers, A&W Root Beer, and Pizza Hut, “has totally diluted my trademark with a national/international advertising campaign to the point that the general public will forever associate “smoky chipotle” with KFC just due to sheer advertising muscle (2 spots air on all stations, including cable, seemingly all the time).”
Due to the enormity of KFC’s marketing saturation, Chuck has retained a trademark attorney to address this matter. “My entire Smokey Chipotle (R) product line will lose its marketing uniqueness. Historically, I was the first individual to promote and pioneer chipotle as a common spice in the mainstream United States market, however, this infringement has definitely damaged the goodwill associated with my trademark and intellectual property rights.”
He went on to say, “One would think that KFC would have just done a simple search where www.smokychipotle.com and www.smokeychipotle.com (as well as www.smokedchipotle.com and www.smokinchipotle.com ) take you directly to my www.montezumabrand.com website… also, I show up 1st on a Google search for either spelling. Additionally, I purchased and own these domain names to protect against further dilution of my trademark, which trademark is easily found in an internet search.”
One might ask, “Well, KFC spells it “Smoky” and you spell it, “Smokey”. Doesn’t that make a difference?” Spelling variations are protected in word mark registrations, such as Chuck’s SMOKEY CHIPOTLE (R). This writer emailed Yum!Brands, Inc. for comment, however, I never received a reply.