To prove its soup's association with the word ‘chunky,’ Campbell’s turned to parodies, late-night jokes, and other pop culture references.

By Mike Pomranz
February 06, 2019
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Some trademark requests are pretty cut and dry. If your last name is Campbell, and you make soup, it’s pretty clear Campbell’s Soup is already taken. But life in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office isn’t always so easy. Recently, Campbell’s wanted to trademark the word “chunky” based on its well-known line of Chunky soups. But “chunky” is a pretty common descriptor. Should Campbell’s be allowed to have it all to themselves?

To get the trademark, Campbell’s had to convince the government office that the brand had established a firm connection between its soups and its “Chunky” name. And to do that, the soup company used some pretty interesting examples. According to Adweek, the application included a slew of pop culture references — from Donovan McNabb’s Chunky soup commercials being parodied on Saturday Night Live to Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah using line “Leave your brand all chunky like I’m advertising soup for Campbell’s.”

Other evidence Campbell’s cited reportedly came from The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Daily Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Americans, and The Onion. Basically, it sounds like Chunky soup was included in a lot of punchlines, and — unlike the butt of many jokes — Campbell’s couldn’t be happier. You can find many of these moments cut together into this video (which Adweek suggests Campbell’s was behind):

In the end, Campbell’s got the trademark. But the company wants people to know it plans to defend it only when appropriate. “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,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”

Can you imagine just how much flak Campbell’s would get if it sued everyone who used the word “chunky?" That would probably be all over the late-night TV shows — which apparently would be great for Campbell’s!

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