If you live within a 25-mile radius of Trader Joe’s, or even if you don’t, you may identify with this story. Trader Joe’s is a California based specialty retail grocery store carrying their own store branded items. For many Americans, it’s a favorite place to shop for something new and fun, especially with the change of seasons. Pumpkin biscotti anyone?
Michael Hallatt, a Canadian, took his love for Trader Joe’s products to a whole other level. Hallatt calls himself Pirate Joe and operates a store in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he sells only Trader Joe’s products. Trader Joe’s has locations all over the United States, but none in Canada.
As Hallatt made weekly trips over the border to purchase stock for his Canadian store, Trader Joe’s employees started noticing him. He was eventually banned from several stores and now has other people shopping for him. While Hallatt loves Trader Joe’s, they don’t love him. Early this summer, they sued him in federal court in Washington state.
The allegations against him included federal trademark infringement, deceptive business practices, false advertising and unfair competition. After the lawsuit was filed against him, Hallatt changed the name of his store to Irate Joe’s.
Hallatt’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss and stated that there was really no damage and that he buys the products at full-price. Last week, U.S. district judge Marsha J. Pechman granted the motion and dismissed the lawsuit. Her ruling stated that any alleged infringement takes place in Canada and Trader Joe’s cannot show economic harm. So for now, Canadians can continue to purchase their favorite Trader Joe’s treats. However, state law claims could possibly still be filed within the next few days. We’ll have to wait and see.
Are you a Trader Joe’s fan? Do you think it’s fair for Pirate Joe’s to sell their products in Canada without permission?