David Chang Says He Won’t Enforce Chili Crisp Trademark After Backlash from the Asian American Community

David Chang and Momofuku will no longer pursue the trademark defense over the brand's "Chili Crunch" product

Published Time: 16.04.2024 - 04:31:09 Modified Time: 16.04.2024 - 04:31:09

David Chang and Momofuku will no longer pursue the trademark defense over the brand's "Chili Crunch" product.

The celebrity chef, 46, explained on his podcast, The David Chang Show, with Momofuku CEO Marguerite Mariscal, that the company would not seek further action with its previous cease-and-desist letters to other businesses using the terms “Chili Crunch” and “Chile Crunch,” The Guardian first reported on April 4.

Last month, Momofuku sent seven cease-and-desist letters to mostly small companies founded by Asian Americans that were calling their product “Chili Crunch” or “Chile Crunch.”

The brand has the trademark for “Chile Crunch,” but the company has also claimed “common law” rights to “Chili Crunch.” Additionally, Momofuku filed for similar trademark status with the U.S. Patent Office for the “Chili Crunch” spelling. The recent filing is still pending. The “Chile Crunch” spelling was first trademarked in 2023 after Momofuku purchased the trademark from Chile Colonial.

“First and foremost, I want to apologize to everyone in the AAPI community who’s been hurt or feels like I’ve marginalized them or put a ceiling on them by our actions,” began Chang. 

He continued: “I spent the greater part of my adult life trying to bring light to Asian food, Asian American food, Asian identity, what it means to be Asian American. I understand why people are upset and I’m truly sorry.”

The chef continued to explain the reasoning behind naming the product “Chili Crunch” to differentiate itself from the widely-known “Chili Crisp” from Lao Gan Ma.

“Whe -

n we were thinking about naming — and again, shame on me if I didn’t know this — but we named it chili crunch specifically because it was not chili crisp,” Chang explained. 

“And we named it chili crunch because it was out of deference to chili crisp, which we associated with as Chinese, specifically carved out by Lao Gan Ma,” adding, “Had I known, or Momofuku known, that chili crunch was a tautology, basically the same as chili crisp, we would have never named it chili crunch.”

While the Momofuku product was first launched in 2018 and began selling bottles in 2020,Lao Gan Ma began bottling the spicy condiment in 1997, according to Allrecipes.

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Mariscal, 34, added, “The reason we received a cease-and-desist from Chile Colonial is the same exact reason that Momofuku was sending them out, which is if you don’t show the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) that you’re routinely defending your mark — and that’s from any size business, large, small — then you’re at risk of losing your trademark,” adding that the company is “stuck in a dilemma.”

Chang concluded the podcast by confirming that the company’s “plan moving forward with this trademark is—and it’s a strange way of sort of taking the power away from it—by doing nothing.”

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