A Defiant Dude, a documentary film in progress

Illustration by Emily Rhain Andrews

Illustration by Emily Rhain Andrews

Funded on Kickstarter four years ago, this documentary work-in-progress is the unexpected tale of a Vermont T-shirt artist who, when he sought trademark rights to the phrase Eat More Kale, is sent a cease and desist letter by the fast-food chain, Chick-fil-A.

Currently in production, the finished documentary will tell about the years-long story to secure an Eat More Kale trademark, the phenomenon known as trademark bullying, the strategic use of time in intellectual property disputes—and business's use of what The New York Times has called, "activism-fueled capitalism." 

Below are excerpts from a report to the film's backers called, A Filmmaker's Guide to A Defiant Dude by James Lantz.

Anderson Cooper's CNN story on Eat More Kale in 2011. Illustration by Emily Rhain Andrews

Anderson Cooper's CNN story on Eat More Kale in 2011. Illustration by Emily Rhain Andrews

"When it comes to defending themselves against dubious claims of trademark infringement, the American legal system is out of reach for most small businesses, artists and individuals—they have all but lost their constitutional right to have their day in court. 

'It's really about inequality,' said Georgetown Law Professor Rebecca Tushnet. 'We have such disparity in the resources of the big to the smallest, that the biggest can afford to do pretty much what they want. And the law is often what they say it is only because the smallest can't afford to fight back.'

Professor Tushnet added bluntly, 'It doesn't pay to be small.'" 

From A Filmmaker's Guide to A Defiant Dude

Bo Muller-Moore gets a tattoo of his Eat More Kale design. Illustration by Emily Rhain Andrews.

Bo Muller-Moore gets a tattoo of his Eat More Kale design. Illustration by Emily Rhain Andrews.

"There's a public perception that there's big money in mining for trademarks and most of the time, that perception is divorced from the reality of how a trademark functions.

While media and entertainment do their part to push this myth, it doesn't help that it's often the legal profession itself that gives it gas. If an enterprising American can only think of a word, phrase or symbol that hasn't been trademarked, and then trademark it—the money will flow." 

From A Filmmaker's Guide to A Defiant Dude

Montpelier Fourth of July parade. Illustration by Emaily Rhain Andrews. 

Montpelier Fourth of July parade. Illustration by Emaily Rhain Andrews. 

"While the USPTO and Bo's legal team were volleying the Eat More Kale case back and forth in super slow motion, I not only didn't have an ending to our movie, nothing conclusive had even been determined.

On and on the process dragged for years. And all I could do was wait, leaving untold the story of small businesses and artists across the country who were getting the crap kicked out of them by dubious trademark actions." 

From A Filmmaker's Guide to A Defiant Dude