Chef David Chang and his culinary brand Momofuku said that they will no longer enforce their trademark over their Chili Crunch, People reported.

On his podcast The David Chang, he and the brand's CEO Marguerite Mariscal, confirmed that they wills top sending cease-and-desist letters to businesses who use the words Chili Crunch and Chile Crunch.

One of the businesses called Chang a “trademark bully,” according to The Guardian, who first reported the issue.

David Chang: Trademark bully no more?

In March, the company sent several cease-and-desist letters to companies whose founders were Asian Americans. These mostly small companies called their product either Chili Crunch or Chile Crunch.

Momofuku owns the trademark for Chile Crunch, but it also claimed the common law rights to Chili Crunch. On top of that, the brand also filed with the US Patent Office for trademark for how Chili Crunch is spelled.

The latter is still pending in the office. Chile Crunch, as it's spelled, was trademarked in 2023 after Momofuku bought it from its original owner Chile Colonial.

“First and foremost, I want to apologize to everyone in the AAPI community who's been hurt or feels like I've marginalized them or put a ceiling on them by our actions,” Chang's apology began.

“I spent the greater part of my adult life trying to bring light to Asian food, Asian American food, Asian identity, what it means to be Asian American. I understand why people are upset and Im truly sorry,” he added.

The chef explained that he named his product Chili Crunch in order to differentiate the condiment from the more widely known Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp.

“When we were thinking about naming — and again, shame on me if I didn't know this — but we names it chili crunch specifically because it was not chili crisp,” he said.

Chang continued, “And we named it chili crunch because it was out of deference to chili crisp, which we associated with as Chinese, specifically carved out by Lao Gan Ma. Had I known, or Momofuku known, that chili crunch was a tautology, basically the same as chili crisp, we would have never named it chili crunch.”

Chili or Chile… what's in a name?

While it's admirable that Chang has apologized, I can't help but be skeptical of his reason. There's no issue in naming your own product as chili crunch, but that term and its other iterations have been used for this type of condiment by many Asians for longer than Momofuku has been making it.

Another reason for my skepticism is his claim that neither he nor Momofuku knew about it. One of the best things about the internet is that it hosts search engines. For research.

While Allrecipes said that Lao Gan Ma only started bottling chili crisp in 1997, it existed way before that. Momofuku, on the other hand, launched their version in 2018 and started selling them in bottled form in 2020.

Chang went on to say that before they bought the Chile Crunch trademark from Chile Colonial, they themselves received cease-and-desist letters from the company. However, he insisted that moving forward they will no longer be enforcing the trademark.

The whole trademark issue made its way to social media, with several Asian and Asian-American creators up in arms about it. Most of the time, when issues like this arise, it has the bite of cultural appropriation. In this case, it doesn't.

Chang is an Asian-American chef, whose specialty is Asian cuisine. And while he's well within his rights to trademark his own product, he has to know (or should've known) that this isn't a new thing. Far from it.

Momofuku can have Chile Crunch. The rest of Asia and those who hail from the continent, should be left alone with the whatever form their chili condiment takes.