October 03, 2013

Pirate Joe says, "My number one supplier hates my guts."

NBC News "For a man who calls himself "Pirate Joe," a legal victory this week allowing him to continue operating his business is as sweet as the Trader Joe's chocolate bars that he sells for a small profit in his Vancouver store."

'Michael Hallatt, 53, has been stocking his 600-square-foot shop exclusively with Trader Joe's products and selling them to Canadians — who don't have Trader Joe's stores in their country — for nearly two years. The 1,200 items he offers fly off the shelves, but the Victoria, British Columbia, native's livelihood was threatened in May when Monrovia, Calif.-based grocer Trader Joe's slapped him with a lawsuit.

'"We have this chalkboard sign out front," Hallatt said on Thursday, a day after the suit was dismissed. "We quickly changed it from 'Unauthorized and unafraid' to 'We won!'"

'The suit, filed in federal court in Washington state, alleged federal trademark infringement, deceptive business practices, injury to business and reputation, false endorsement and false designation of origin, false advertising, federal trademark dilution, and unfair competition.

'In August, Hallatt's lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the case. "There's really no damage. He's buying the product at full-price. Trader Joe's is getting paid fully for the product he's taking," said Nathan Alexander, a partner at a Seattle firm.

'While U.S. district judge Marsha J. Pechman's decision dismisses the federal suit, it gives Trader Joe's the option of bringing state law claims forward within 10 days against Hallatt. Trader Joe's did not say whether they will pursue further legal action.

'"We sell our products in our stores to our customers; and to maintain the goodwill and integrity of the Trader Joe’s brand, it is extremely important to us to protect and preserve the customer experience we have developed in our stores over the past 46 years," Trader Joe's said in a statement on Thursday. "While we are disappointed and disagree with the Court’s determination that it could not exercise jurisdiction over the defendant’s activities in Canada, we will continue to do everything in our power to protect our trademarks and the integrity of our products for our customers."'

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