California Intellectual Property Blog


Trader Joe’s Fights the Trademark Trader Schmo

Orange County – Recently a Kosher foods company has applied to trademark the name “Trader Schmo,” which is being opposed by the supermarket chain Trader Joe’s. Part of the reasoning behind the opposition is that Trader Joe’s believes that the phrase “Joe Schmo” is so recognized that Trader Schmo will confuse consumers, especially with both companies selling food.
Trader Joe’s began in 1958 and is based in Monrovia, California. There are 475 Trader Joe’s retail grocery stores in forty one states across the country. Trader Joe’s also uses trademarks similar to its core trademark including TRADER MING’S (Chinese food), TRADER JOSE (Mexican food), TRADER JOE-SAN, (Japanese food), TRADER JACQUE’S (French food), and TRADER GIOTTO’S (Italian food).
Jeffrey Glassover of Naples Florida filed the Trader Schmo trademark on November 29, 2016 on an intent to use basis. The application includes Kosher foods in Classes 029 and 030 including: “Baba Ganoush, compote, frozen, prepared ready-to-eat meals consisting primarily of vegetables; Hummus, jellies, jams, Latkes, frankfurters, cold cuts, prepared food kits composed of meat, Matzo ball soup, chicken soup, Borscht, nut based snack bars, fruit based snack bars, stewed fruits, stuffed cabbage with meat, zimmes, vegetable salads, macaroons, Rugelach, candies, ice cream, diary based spreads, Kasha, Knishes, Kreplach, Kugel, Pierogies, grain based snack bars, and Blintzes.”
The Trader Schmo trademark application received two office actions which requested edits to the description of goods, but then the application was approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The application then published for opposition and on April 27, 2018 Trader Joe’s filed its opposition. The opposition alleges priority of use and a likelihood of consumer confusion.
Apart from whether a likelihood of confusion exists, Trader Schmo may also be liable for dilution. Generally dilution concerns whether the accused mark could harm Trader Joe’s reputation without regard to confusion.
It was only a few years ago when Trader Joe’s had to take legal action to protect itself against a company called Pirate Joe’s, which was a Canada based company that would sneak Trader Joe’s products over the border to Vancouver to sell as their own. Eventually, Pirate Joe’s closed due to legal fees.


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