Trader Joe’s Loses Lawsuit Against Canadian Reseller Pirate Joe’s

Pirate Joe’s is a small retail store in Vancouver that sells only one line of merchandise: stuff purchased from Trader Joe’s and trucked across the border. People in Vancouver love Trader Joe’s, see, but the chain has no Canadian stores. Pirate Joe’s fills in the gaps for customers who don’t want to travel across the border but who really want pecan praline granola and chocolate-covered potato chips.

This is a situation where everyone wins, isn’t it? Trader Joe’s sells thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise each week to the store owner. The store owner marks every item up a few bucks and sells it in the store. Customers get their Trader Joe’s fix without having to wait in line at the border crossing to Washington state. Trader Joe’s doesn’t think so, and sued in federal court trying to get Pirate Joe’s shut down. They failed, since British Columbia is not a U.S. state. Keep the long arm of your law out of Vancouverites’ cat cookies, Uncle Sam.

The key question in this case is whether shoppers would mistake Pirate Joe’s for a genuine Trader Joe’s store, diluting the brand’s trademark and possibly harming the brand if the store sold a customer spoiled or damaged frozen food. Signage makes it clear that PJ’s isn’t owned or sanctioned by TJ’s, but the tropical decor and paper Trader Joe’s bags that the store sends shoppers home with could confuse the issue a little.

Trader Joe’s reports that as many as 40% of the credit card customers at its Bellingham, Wash. location near the border are from Canada. That would mean that the existence of Pirate Joe’s damages a brand that’s popular among Canadians, if not necessarily in Canada. The court disagreed, however, and Pirate Joe’s remains.

Trader Joe’s loses fight with Vancouver’s Pirate Joe’s [CBC] (Thanks, Mindy!)

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