Momofuku backs down from defending its ‘chile crunch’ trademark after outcry by small businesses

NEW YORK (AP) — Momofuku, a food and restaurant brand launched by food mogul David Chang, said it would not defend its trademark on the name “chili crunch” after sparking an outcry in sending cease and desist letters to others. companies using this term.

Momofuku began selling its Chili Crunch product in 2020, a crunchy spicy oil with dried peppers and other ingredients like sesame seeds and garlic. It’s a riff on crispy Chinese chili condiment and other similar products from other countries. Different variations of chili crisp and other hot sauces have gained popularity in the United States in recent years.

Momofuku acquired the trademark for the name “chili crunch” from Chile Colonial in 2023. While Momofuku owns the trademark for “chili crunch”, spelled with an “e”, it also claims “common law” rights to the “chili crunch” with an “i” and filed for similar trademark status with the U.S. Patent Office for that spelling, which is still pending.

In March, Momofuku sent seven cease and desist letters to companies that called their product “Chili Crunch” or “Chile Crunch.” Most of the companies that received the letter were small brands founded by Asian Americans.

As first reported by The Guardian on April 4, several companies took to social media to complain that the letters were unfair, especially since most of the brands are small and David Chang and Momofuku are very well known in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. . Their complaints went viral, sparking a debate over whether Momofuku — or anyone — should be able to own the brand for generic-sounding chili or chili crunch.

At first, Momofuku stood by its actions. He said in a statement that he was obligated to defend his brand or risk losing it to a larger company that could step in and copy his product if it wasn’t defended. But on Friday, the company reversed course and said it would no longer enforce the brand in the future.

“Over the past week, we have heard feedback from our community and now understand that the term ‘chili crunch’ has a broader meaning for many,” the company said in an emailed statement. “This situation has created a painful divide between Momofuku, the AAPI community we care about, and other companies sharing grocery store shelves. But the truth is, we all want the same things: to grow, to succeed, and to be childcare-givers. American dining and grocery stores a more diverse place.

Michelle Tew, owner of Malaysian food brand Homiah, is one of the owners who spoke out on social media after receiving a cease and desist letter from Momofuku on March 18 telling her she had 90 days to stop selling its Sambal Chili Crunch products.

Tew said in an Instagram post that Momofuku’s decision not to enforce the trademark is “a step in the right direction,” but she hopes Momofuku will do more to demonstrate its commitment to the Asian American community and of the Pacific Islands.

“I am so grateful to this community who spoke out loud and clear in support of this and rallied around small businesses like mine,” she said in the release.

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Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe.Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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