Chipotle Sues DC-Born Sweetgreen Over Its Chicken Burrito Bowl

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The burrito chain alleges that the salad chain has violated its trademarks.

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Sweetgreen’s new “chipotle-chicken burrito bowl” is spicing things up in more ways that one. Photograph courtesy of Sweetgreen

Update: Sweetgreen has changed the name of its burrito bowl “as part of a tentative agreement to resolve the lawsuit.” Sweetgreen co-founder Nicolas Jammet issued the following statement:

“In order to focus on the business and continue serving our guests without distraction, we have decided to rename our bowl to the Chicken + Chipotle Pepper Bowl as part of a tentative agreement to resolve the lawsuit. Our mission is to bring customers healthy, elevated and craveable menu items that make you feel good. We are looking forward to putting this lawsuit behind us as we continue to connect more people to real food.”

Don’t call it a salad—call it a lawsuit. Mega-chain Chipotle is suing Sweetgreen over the DC-born company’s “Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl.” In a lawsuit issued in a California federal court this week, Chipotle alleges that the salad chain is violating its trademark rights by marketing a grain-based bowl that’s spicily similar to its own chicken burrito bowl. 

According to a press release, the new Sweetgreen meal “features a double serving of wild rice, with new lime/cilantro black beans and a house-roasted chipotle salsa. Don’t call it a salad—this one’s base is all grains!”

Chipotle alleges “the very similar and directly competitive” bowl, and the marketing around it, is an attempt to confuse or deceive customers and capitalize on the burrito behemoth’s reputation. According to the lawsuit, Sweetgreen infringes on various Chipotle trademarks, including advertising the word “Chipotle” in all caps, in a similar font, and in the chain’s “trademark red color, Adobo Red.” 

Chipotle alleges that its lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter and called Sweetgreen’s in-house counsel on March 30 when the bowl was released, requesting that Sweetgreen “re-name its menu item using ‘chipotle’ in lower-case,” or in a sentence to describe the bowl. “As one example, Chipotle suggested that ‘chicken bowl with chipotle’ may be a more appropriate name for Sweetgreen’s new menu item.”

Sweetgreen, which has so far declined to comment on the lawsuit, has altered its marketing since legal action was taken, adding a hyphen to describe the “Chipotle-Chicken Burrito Bowl.” Still, that didn’t stop the company from celebrating National Burrito Day (April 6) with a 50 percent-off promo, which according to the lawsuit, “is clearly intended to copy and trade off of Chipotle’s longstanding ‘National Burrito Day’ promotion.”

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

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