Food giant Nestlé has abandoned its pursuit to trademark the terms “The Original Vegan Butcher,” “The Vegan Butchers,” and “Vegan Butcher” after a lengthy battle with Minneapolis-based vegan butcher shop The Herbivorous Butcher. In 2016, Guam-born siblings Kale and Aubry Walch opened The Herbivorous Butcher—the first vegan butcher shop in the United States—to much fanfare, selling their house-made deli meats, sausages, ribs, and cheeses. Shortly after opening, The Herbivorous Butcher raised criticism from media outlets for the use of the word “butcher” when applied to vegan products—terminology that has since become commonplace in the American lexicon in large part due to the success The Herbivorous Butcher has seen in its years of operation.

Vegan trademark battle

In August 2017, The Herbivorous Butcher attempted to register the trademark “Vegan Butcher” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO quickly denied The Herbivorous Butcher the trademark—citing that the term was “merely descriptive.” That year, Nestlé acquired vegetarian brand Sweet Earth Foods. Since then, the company has released a variety of vegan meats, including the Awesome Burger, and announced it would be selling Sweet Earth’s deli slices from its own deli counters emblazoned with the phrase “The Vegan Butcher” positioned inside supermarkets.

After the USPTO denied The Herbivorous Butcher’s trademark, Nestlé filed a trademark application for a nearly identical term, “The Vegan Butcher.” In September 2019, as Nestlé’s trademark application neared approval, The Herbivorous Butcher filed an opposition with the USPTO to bar the company from trademarking the term, which has become crucial to the marketing and operations of the independent vegan butcher shop. 

The Herbivorous Butcher does not plan to pursue a trademark for these terms in order to encourage large and small companies alike to continue innovating vegan products without potential legal recourse. “I hope they realized, as did we, that the term ‘vegan butcher’ belongs to all the plant-based meat mongers that are working towards better food and a better tomorrow for animals and humans alike,” Aubry Walch told VegNews. “It’s a movement and shouldn’t belong to a corporation or any one business.”

Photo Credit: The Herbivorous Butcher