Trader Joes Sues its Own Self Proclaimed “Best Customer” for Trademark Infringement

By Joseph Mandour on August 28, 2013

California Trademark LawLos Angeles – After years of calling himself Trader Joe’s “best customer,” allegedly spending nearly $350,000 per year at the cult favorite food store, Michael Hallat has been sued by the very same retailer he so vigorously supports.  Among other claims, Trader Joes is alleging trademark infringement against Hallat, arguing that his much smaller company, fittingly named Pirate Joe’s, harms the Trader Joe’s brand.

Hallat’s surprising business model was formed in an effort to bring coveted Trader Joe’s products within reach for Canadian customers, who, according to his website, “don’t always have the time (or a car or a passport) to get them.”  Since he opened his shop in Vancouver, Canada, Hallat has been making routine trips to U.S. Trader Joe’s stores to stock up on goods, only to re-sell them at his own store in Canada, where Trader Joe’s does not operate.

This has inflamed Trader Joe’s, which is now asserting in its complaint that because it carefully crafts each of its products from their inception to marketing to when they finally leave the shelves, Pirate Joe’s unfairly profits off of all of its legwork by simply buying the goods in America and re-selling them for a higher price in Canada.  Hallat counters by claiming that he is serving a customer base that Trader Joes has actively decided not to target.  He asserts that he has a right to re-sell anything that he has rightfully purchased and notes that while his prices are marked up, he believes that everything he is doing is within the realm of the law.

Trader Joe’s has continued to refute this, recently opposing Hallat’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit.  The grocery giant maintains that beyond profiting from the enormous amount of time and energy that it puts into developing and producing its own products, Pirate Joe’s harms Trader Joes by offering goods that may be damaged, expired, or otherwise not up to Trader Joe’s standards, leaving Trader Joe’s with no way to fix these problems or whatever tarnished image they may create.  The battle is raging on, however, as Hallat, who keeps a running blog of his tribulations with Trader Joe’s has recently updated it to show that he has filed a Reply Brief to Trader Joe’s Opposition to Motion to Dismiss.

As an additional sign of bravery, Hallat has also changed his store name to “Irate Joes” and has begun selling t-shirts with the same phrase on his website in an effort to showcase his sentiment.   His website slogan now also reads “Unauthorized, Unaffiliated and Unafraid.”

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