The USPTO has caused consternation and anger after it approved Nestlé’s trademark application for “The Vegan Butcher”, having previously rejected a pair of vegan chefs’ application for the strikingly similar “vegan butcher” on the basis that the term was “merely descriptive”.

Aubry and Kale Walch are a brother and sister team who operate their business The Herbivorous Butcher from premises in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, where they create vegan alternatives to meat and cheese. According to their website, “We have carefully crafted 100% vegan, cruelty-free meat and cheese alternatives that capture the best flavors, textures, and nutrients most people are used to without their negative impacts on health, animals, and the environment”. Since starting their business in 2014, the Walches have successfully trademarked “The Herbivorous Butcher”, “brother butcher”, “sister butcher” and “meat-free meats”, but in 2017 the USPTO declined to allow their application for “vegan butcher”. Nonetheless, Aubry and Kale use this “descriptive” term on their packaging.

However, when the food manufacturer (and, since 2017, Nestlé subsidiary) Sweet Earth sought to register “The Vegan Butcher” with the USPTO, to Aubry and Kale’s shock, that application was approved. They have now filed an objection with the USPTO, stating on Instagram, “The corporate giant [Nestlé] is trying to trademark “The Vegan Butcher” – which we originally coined. But we won’t be intimidated by the imitators & we’re fighting back to keep what’s ours”. The case is due to be heard shortly by a three-judge panel and could go to trial if a settlement is not agreed upon.

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