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Momofuku retreats from defending ‘chile crunch’ trademark due to backlash by small businesses.

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Momofuku, a renowned food and restaurant brand founded by David Chang, faced backlash after sending cease-and-desist letters to other businesses for using the term “chile crunch.” The brand released a product called Chili Crunch in 2020, inspired by Chinese condiments and other similar spicy oils that have gained popularity in the U.S. in recent years. Momofuku obtained the trademark for “chile crunch” and defended it by sending letters to small brands founded by Asian Americans, sparking a debate on owning generic terms like chile or chili crunch.

Initially standing by their actions to protect their trademark, Momofuku ultimately decided not to enforce it after receiving criticism. The company acknowledged the broader meaning and significance of the term “chili crunch” within the community and expressed a desire to bridge the divide between Momofuku and small businesses. Michelle Tew, owner of Homiah, a Malaysian food brand, welcomed Momofuku’s decision but called for further commitment to supporting the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, emphasizing the importance of community support and solidarity among small businesses.

The controversy surrounding Momofuku’s trademark enforcement highlighted the power of community feedback and the importance of acknowledging cultural significance. While the brand initially defended its trademark, the shift in decision showcased a willingness to listen to the community’s concerns and adapt accordingly. Moving forward, the focus remains on building a more inclusive and diverse retail landscape, where small businesses like Homiah can thrive and continue to contribute to America’s culinary diversity.

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