Vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli has filed a lawsuit against her former business partner, ESquared Hospitality, to reclaim her name from restaurant by CHLOE, citing 14 different causes of action, including violation of the right of publicity, trademark infringement, and copyright infringement.
The lawsuit alleges that the name “by CHLOE” was chosen by ESquared and the entity it controls, BC Hospitality Group LLC (BCHG), in order to capitalize on Coscarelli’s celebrity as a vegan chef, and is supported by documents from branding agency Paperwhite Studios. Paperwhite was hired by ESquared prior to the launch of the first by CHLOE location in New York City, and advised the hospitality group that the combined terms “Chloe,” “vegan,” and “food” ranked high in Google searches at the time, making the use of Coscarelli’s name advantageous for consumer recognition.
“After seeing Chloe’s success,” the lawsuit states that ESquared CEO James Haber became “infatuated with [Coscarelli], [and] began a jealous and threatening campaign aimed at trying to control [Coscarelli] and acquire the rights to her personal brand.” The lawsuit uncovered a revealing email exchange between Haber and his daughter, by CHLOE co-founder Samantha Wasser, dated August 16, 2016. “We milk [it] till we can’t!” Haber wrote. “Milk what?” Wasser asked.“Her name,” Haber responded.
The lawsuit also alleges that Haber commenced action to remove Coscarelli from the by CHLOE brand after she rejected his inappropriate advances. “Haber began sending threatening messages to [Coscarelli] and her family, and demanding [Coscarelli] meet with him alone so he could share private feelings he said he had toward [Coscarelli] and about their relationship,” the complaint states. “Spurned again, and reeling from rejection, Haber used ESquared to seize control of BCHG, effectively excluding [Coscarelli] from all business operations.” In 2016, Haber initiated arbitration proceedings against Coscarelli, seeking $7 million in compensatory damages while alleging that Coscarelli interfered with the business by refusing to sell her name to international buyers and mass-license retail food products under her name. ESquared terminated Coscarelli from the brand on March 27, 2017.
“We think Chloe is among the most talented and best known vegan chefs in the country,” Coscarelli’s lead attorney on the case, Ronald J. Schutz, Esq., told VegNews. “She has changed how people view vegan food with her incredible healthy and tasty recipes. She is a wonderful person and we filed this suit so that [Coscarelli] can regain full control of her own name and that she be compensated for the unauthorized use of her name, image, and likeness for the past year.”
This month by CHLOE raised $31 million to expand the chain to an additional 20 locations worldwide, all without Coscarelli’s involvement or benefit. While Coscarelli recently opened a new, independently owned vegan eatery in Miami under the name Chef Chloe and the Vegan Cafe, the complaint alleges that ESquared has interfered with Coscarelli’s ability to use her name for new ventures. The lawsuit includes approximately 100 pages of media coverage that Coscarelli received by being tied to by CHLOE, supporting the claim that her name is inextricably connected to the brand.
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