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David Chang and Momofuku Gained’t Implement Their ‘Chile Crunch’ Trademark After Backlash

David Chang and Momofuku Gained’t Implement Their ‘Chile Crunch’ Trademark After Backlash

A heated debate over chili crunch has come to an end—for now.

After receiving backlash for trademarking the term “chile crunch,” David Chang and his company Momofuku have decided not to enforce the trademark, The Washington Post reported on Friday evening. The group will, however, hold on to the trademark, rather than giving it up completely.

“We have heard the feedback from our community and now understand that the term ‘chili crunch’ carries broader meaning for many,” a Momofuku spokesperson said in a statement to the Post. “We have no interest in ‘owning’ a culture’s terminology and we will not be enforcing the trademark going forward.”

Momofuku bought the “chile crunch” trademark from another company last year, according to patent office information cited by The Washington Post. But earlier this month, it came to light that Chang’s group was sending cease-and-desist letters to other companies that were branding their condiments as chili crunch, including smaller, Asian-owned businesses. Additionally, in late March, Momofuku applied to trademark the “chili crunch” spelling as well.

The pushback to Momofuku’s actions was quick and fierce. Chili crunch is a popular condiment in China and other Asian countries, the Post noted, and many producers have generational ties to chili crunch. Smaller businesses could have been adversely affected by needing to change the name of their products: Michelle Tew, the founder and CEO of Homiah, told the newspaper that rebranding her sambal chili crunch could have impacted contracts with Whole Foods and Target, for example.

Chang addressed the hubbub in a podcast on Friday: “In holding the term crunch as a trademark, Momofuku can be seen as trying to own a piece of Chinese culture and heritage, which is exactly the opposite of what we wanted to achieve,” he said. “I want to apologize to everyone in the AAPI community who has been hurt or feels like I’ve marginalized them or put a ceiling on them by our actions.”

Still, Momofuku will retain the “chile crunch” trademark. On the same podcast episode, CEO Marguerite Mariscal explained that if it relinquished the trademark, another company with the resources to litigate could pick it up and potentially cause even more problems. The same thing could happen while Momofuku doesn’t enforce the trademark, but Mariscal said that’s “a risk we’re willing to take.”

For now, then, it seems the chili-crunch debacle has lost some of its spiciness.


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Source: Robb Report

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