Updated, Feb. 7, 2:00 p.m.: A Campbell’s spokesperson reached out to The Takeout to make clear: “There is not an issue with non-prominent, descriptive uses of ‘chunky’ that aren’t a trademark or brand name, therefore we would not object to brands using the word to describe a particular variety of soup.”
Original Post: Feb. 7, 11:29 a.m.: Campbell’s, purveyor of soups and the occasional sauce, have been granted a trademark on the word “chunky.” Their justification: Football and jokes.
No, really. Watch this video, set to The White Stripes’ “Icky Thump,” presumably because it sounds sort of like “Chunky Pop”:
Other citations include this piece from The Onion; episodes of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Daily Show, Ellen, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and The Americans; a survey conducted by the band, which found that 75 percent of consumers associate “chunky” with Campbell’s; and most endearingly, two separate references from a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. Per AdWeek:
Ghostface Killah (Dennis Coles) of Wu-Tang Clan rapped “Leave your brand all chunky like I’m advertising soup for Campbell’s” in the song “Murda Goons.” The rapper mentioned it again in “Return of Theodore Unit,” rapping “Chunky and I ain’t talking chicken noodle soup.”
Not included: “C.R.E.A.M. (Chunky Rules Everything Around Me)”.
To be clear, the trademark granted to Campbell’s only pertains to the word “chunky” when used in conjunction with soup; chunky peanut butter and Chunky Monkey Ice Cream are safe. But, uh, chunky is an adjective that can be easily applied to many soups. Again, per AdWeek:
“I do not think it should have been granted no matter how much evidence they put forth,” said trademark attorney Laurie Marshall of Marshall Law Group...
“How else would you describe liquids with solids? That’s what they are: chunks in a liquid,” Marshall said, noting how difficult it will be for competitors to describe their own soups. “Clumpy? Lumpy? That’s horrible.”
A Campbell’s spokesperson clarified to AdWeek that the company does not plan, in layman’s terms, to be a dick about it:
“Campbell’s rights in connection with the trademark ‘Chunky’ are solely limited to soups. So use of ‘chunky’ in connection with another type of food—like milk—would not be an issue... Also, the use of ‘chunky-style’ would be considered descriptive, and not a trademark or brand name. For this reason, Campbell would not even object to uses of ‘chunky’ in connection with soups, as long as the use was in a non-prominent, descriptive fashion.”
In short, get ready to purchase lots of Progresso Potato Soup served chunked-style and Wolfgang Puck Chicken Noodle With Large Pieces.