A side remark, people often say how great the US / north America is for entrepreneurs, compared to (continental) Europe where there is a lot of red tape and regulations. But in my opinion, if I were to do this in Germany there is no way ALDI (whom trader Joe's belongs to iirc) could sue me out of business. Not even with the old frivolous "we are wrong but you can't afford the defense" trick. There is just so much legal uncertainty in NA that it would give me nightmares doing business there.
Say you owned Captainmuon Grocery and only sold private label Captainmuon Chips. Although demand is so high you could distribute your Chips to other groceries and retailers, you see greater value in driving traffic to your store through the exclusive distribution. Don't you have a legal right to create exclusive distribution of your consumable product? Don't you have a legal right to enter into a contract with your shoppers (i.e. You agree to purchase consumable products for consumption only and not resell them)? Don't you have the legal right to limit your product liability (i.e. If I buy and resell a defective bag of your chips, possibly becoming defective after it left your store, you will be jointly and severally liable for the damages as a result of a products liability lawsuit)?
Only playing devils advocate, but I do believe you can play with the facts to highlight the push and pull of contractual rights, ownership/resale rights, and product liability. Also, playing with the facts would highlight how trademark rights/goodwill could be more negatively effected, again something more along the lines of a reseller selling tampered/expired product.
For the initial sale of it, yes. But not after that. See below.
> Don't you have a legal right to enter into a contract with your shoppers (i.e. You agree to purchase consumable products for consumption only and not resell them)?
You couold put that on your package, but legally, I don't think it would pass muster as a contract. Even if you got each customer to sign a form agreeing to such a contract, I'm not sure it would stand up in court, because statutes have limited what rights a customer can sign away even in a written contract. Which might not make sense, but lots of things in the law don't make sense. :-)
(The usual disclaimer that IANAL applies.)
Why not? Lots of things are illegal regardless of what people put in contracts. If I contract you to kill me, you'd still go to jail for murder. Lots of things are illegal to sell unless they meet quality standards, regardless of if consumers know about it being sub-standard or not or agree to it.
Society has decided it just doesn't want to have to deal with that kind of crap and it's annoying consequences for everybody else. I'm against the general principle of hundreds page EUAL fine print being enforceable. If the industry wants that sort of thing, they should agree some set standard contracts vetted by the government that meet specified standards of service and consumer rights. We shouldn't have to deal with obscure and impenetrable special exceptions to everything all the time.
The courts agreed, but Trader Joes had bigger pockets and was able to kill Pirate Joes with just legal fees alone. They didn't have to win, they just had to keep him in court until he was broke. This is a pretty common tactic when big corporations are in lawsuits with individuals. Or in the case of healthcare suits they just wait until the plaintiff is dead of whatever condition they're suing over.
How many times do we have to hear these kinds of stories of abuse, or patent trolls, or of other unfairness and injustice in the legal system before anything is done about it?
I mean the legal system produces some incredible injustices currently: If we get more stories such as billionaires like Jeffrey Epstein raping underage girls and getting a house-arrest with week nights spent sleeping in a special cell, what does that imply for the rest of us?
The 99% of us are burdened with this BS while the 1% take advantage of it.
One of the many reasons this is the "land of opportunity"...
Well, probably more, if this type of stuff keeps getting conflated with legitimate cases of abuse and trolling. As is ... people are getting frothy about the application of the law as written.
What are you mad about? Somebody protecting their trademark? Their direct channel? Their distribution? Their customer guarantees? Their quality assurances?
Yeah - go ahead. Burn it all down. It's not like the system provided you with the cheap-ass (maybe mobile) computers via which you connect to the Internet (also cheaply) anyway...
Also, saying that TJs "bullied" him assumes that he was not in fact trading on the TJs brand. Look at his store sign: http://www.cknw.com/2017/06/08/pirate-joes-in-vancouver-clos.... Even the font he uses is very similar. He wasn't just reselling TJs products. He was capitalizing on the TJs brand to resell products (at a high markup by the way).
Note that the company was started as Transilvania Trading, and didn't get sued until after it changed its name to Pirate Joe's. Moreover, he added the disclaimer "Unauthorized, Unaffiliated and Unafraid" after the lawsuit was filed. Trader Joe's had a very legitimate trademark infringement case, especially during the period where the store was called "Pirate Joe's" with no disclaimer.
1. TJ would argue PJ was selling watered down product bearing the TJ mark (I know a seemly strange arguement bc PJ was buying selling TJ product without alteration);
2. However, Inherent in all the value of all TJ products are: a) The TJ guarantee of product (i.e. TJ will replace any product you bought at TJ without question/receipt) and b) TJ customer services is part of the TJ product value bc TJ product is sold exclusively thru TJ which they control completely.
3. Therefore, without the guarantee and customer service the TJ product PJ sells is "materially different" than the TJ product TJ sells. (Before others go crazy about this point, this is not my position, it's case law, both warranties/customer service can be qualities of trademark products that remove them from first sale doctrine protections);
4. Tying this into the standard of trademark law, TJ can likely prove customers were confused and bought TJ product from PJ thinking it was TJ product, when in fact it was "materially different" product with the TJ mark.plus it doesn't help PJ advertises they sell TJ product.
5. Further by selling Product with the TJ mark not backed by the TJ guarantee dilutes the TJ mark and goodwill associated with the mark.
Trademark is definitely tricky, there are always questions of facts (I.e. Was there customer confusion in the marketplace) and so they are always ripe for trial. That said I agree with you TJ likely had a good trademark case supported by case law...unfortunately HN likes to try to make absolutes out of law and so when they hear one week about "first sale doctrine" the next they believe in absolute ownership and absolute rights to resell notwithstanding common knowledge to the contrary (they know there is no absolute right to resell rx; alcohol; guns; etc...)
The colors are similar.
Hey may still have won that one, but it's at least somewhat plausible that consumers might actually be confused by the name.
Only problem is those consumers are in a different country - one where Trader Joe's does not operate. I would bet Pirate Joe's would have happily closed down if Trader Joe's opened up a store in Vancouver, since that's all the Pirate Joe guy wanted in the first place.
I'm not arguing that it's necessarily a good thing or that Trader Joe's would have won. I don't think Trader Joe's should have shut him down. But the fact that he called it Pirate Joe's, and setup the store to look like a Trader Joe's (along with carrying Trader Joe's merchandise), means that it wasn't just a nuisance lawsuit. Trader Joe's had a least some chance of winning, and they had a reasonable legal argument.
Honestly, the average consumer in Canada doesn't even know what Trader Joe's is (well they probably do now, since the Pirate Joe's story has made national news here).
I get all of your points about the legal stuff, but I don't think anybody walking into P/Irate Joe's didn't know what was going on. The owner was very transparent about it, and most of the publicity P/Irate Joe's got in the news was about what the store's premise was.
I look at it very simply. You have a super enthusiastic fan in another country who wants people to have access to your products. You can look at it as an opportunity (to find an amicable solution) or as a threat (to be addressed with lawyers).
One approach generates positive goodwill and the other one generates negative goodwill.
Obviously, it's Trader Joe's prerogative to choose which way they wanted to go, but I personally think they missed out on a marketing opportunity to expand their reach.
Update: I went and read the actual complaint by Trader Joe's and, though it does mention this, I think this comment may be overly generous to their thought process.
The complaint, as far as I can tell, was basically that their decor looked kinda like Trader Joe's and they sold Trader Joe's products and this combination is deceptive.
What's the thinking there? Is it just shock at alienating such a right, or is it part of some actual, coherent worldmodel that satisfies difficult desiderata?
In property law, there is the concept of a restraint on alienation. In competition/anti-trust law, there is the concept of a post-sale restraint. The idea is simple: after you by the chips, they are yours and you can do with them what you want. Restricting resale also limits competition, which is bad for consumers. Whether this view trumps your freedom to contract is a legal question whose answer has varied over time.
Historically, such restraints were a problem for real property in England. An estate might have been held in "fee tail" to be passed on to heirs indefinitely. Society decided that land was not being effectively used in this way, so fee tails were broken by statute beginning in the 1800's. Your freedom to "devise by will" was limited in favor of the property right of alienation.
Software was traditionally sold to the end user, who could use or sell the product as he wished, subject to Copyright restrictions on making additional copies for distribution. Only recently did this property-like right erode in favour of the current norm where software is licensed under a plethora of contractual restrictions you may never have read (the EULA).
If not, customers would be free to avoid onerous terms by choosing a competitor, thus disincentivizing their use in the market. Instead in our current world, I'm sure we can all think of companies who could easily impose the most draconian TOS restrictions & limitations on rights-after-purchase and yet would still sell approximately the same amount of product.
Ergo, we limit these rights by law.
You do have a right to go after Commandermuon Grocery for abusing your trademark.
Usually liability traverses the chain of custody. If I give you a bag of chips, that doesn't absolve Frito-Lay of liability for a salmonella contamination issue associated with that lot of chips. Likewise, if I crush the chips and sell the bag to you, it's not Frito-Lay's problem, it's mine.
This stuff has been litigated extensively. There was a few cases around fancy grey-market watches that Costco was buying overseas and selling here at a discount. Costco provided a third party warranty to address that issue, but was allowed to continue. First sale doctrine applies here too.
It is very common for camera stores to import cameras from overseas mass retailers in southeast Asia (IIRC Taiwan is a major source) and sell them in the US at a discount. The only limit is that the official Canon/Nikon repair centers know what region a camera was sold in and won't repair a foreign camera without a damned good reason (or a pro photographer rating, which entails owning a certain number of high-end lenses and so on)
And no just because Trader Joe's products have TJ trademarks does not mean they are covered by first-sale doctrine, they are still food stuffs. Trademark under first sale-doctrine is more applicable to reselling a professional sports jersey containing the trademark logo/colors of the team.
Do not confuse issues around distributorships, which are contracts that say, I will agree to sell you these goods at wholesale prices so long as you agree not to sell them anywhere I say you can't.
Your example with reselling prescription opiates, is that opiates are a controlled substance, food is not.
Trademark would only be a problem here if what Pirate Joes was selling was counterfeit Trader Joe's goods.
Pirate Joes' core business was perfectly legal in the US. The only way trademark could be a problem is that Pirate Joes might be ruled too close to Trader Joes, and that's the trademark of the business, not the trademark of the items for sale in the store.
That is wrong, according to the case law. Facts here are very different bc TJ product is backed by the TJ guarantee; therefore, although identical TJ product when PJ sells it, it is "materially different" because PJ doesn't back the TJ product. That material change is a trademark violation, especially where PJ is advertising they buy/resell TJ product (impossible and confusing to customers).
Simply look up the case law when first sale doctrine does not apply as a result of material changes to the product because the change in warranty/customer service inherently tied to the product/brand.
Here is a decent article published by the American Bar Association regarding the resale of "genuine" goods (not counterfeit) by unauthorized retailers. Skip to the "warranty policy and unauthorized dealer page" section, then "going to court".
Note the exceptions to first sale doctrine include "material changes" to the trademark good, including non physical changes, then does a decent job of listing those changes recorgnized by the courts.
Edit: from article regarding non-physical changes to trademark product, "Perhaps most commonly, differences in warranty protection coverage between authorized and unauthorized sales often lead to trademark infringement"
Transfer of prescription medication is a different matter, and these are controlled substances with specific rules around transfer. If you happened to be a pharmacist and happened to have someone with a prescription for a drug, there are some scenarios where you could transfer them.
If you give me an apple, I have no obligation to eat or destroy the apple. I'm free to give it to anyone I wish, either as a whole or in parts.
Reselling your prescription opiates is prohibited by specific laws. No such law exists for food.
Patented inventions for example can be resold or even incorporated into other devices which are then sold and you don't get to control such things.
Definitely seems like a gray area, but the deciding factor appears to be how likely a customer is to confuse the reseller with the original manufacturer. Given the name of the store was "Pirate Joe's", and they in fact played up the idea that they were an unauthorized reseller, it seems like that confusion would be highly unlikely.
Not a lawyer but, I'm not sure you do have that right. I know this isn't a copyright issue, but couldn't the same logic of the First Sale Doctrine apply? As a consumer, once I purchase something, it becomes mine and I may do with it as I wish, including reselling it, yes?
IANAL, but the attitudes of judges in US courts seems to go the other way. See the recent inkjet refill lawsuit. The courts appear to prefer the idea that once something is sold, it truly belongs to the person it was sold to. The first sale doctrine in copyright is another example.
Being free to dispose of property how you see fit has been a foundation of common law for a few centuries.
These types of concessions wind up creeping into "free societies" as economic interest buy laws to help create monopolies.
Fairly clearly, under law, no. Well, kinda: You have the right to decide who you will sell to, entirely.
You have no right to prevent things under the first sale doctrine.
(Some of the attempts to limit this include printing on packaging 'not for resale' as an attempt to EULA the physical product).
Not entirely, see recent cases of bakers who didn't want to sell cakes for gay weddings.
Trader Joes' actions here seem to defy their self-interest. Instead of suing Pirate Joe's out of existence, why not offer to buy them? They've already done half the work of marketing your brand and building a storefront -- seems like it'd be a slam dunk to convert Pirate Joe's into a legitimate Trader Joe's location.
Vertical integration is not a de facto right of a company, in general, for anti-trust concerns.
This is the intent of the big stores. Sams club has a limit to 10,000 packs of cigarettes. And rules on resellers, etc.
Uhh, counter question. Does such a "right" exist in a free market?
> the company filed a lawsuit against Mr. Hallatt for trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin and false advertising.
It was pretty clear the guy was riffing off the TJ brand - there's plenty of legal precedent for that isn't there? Maybe if he had a different name and was selling products from other companies he'd have more of a leg to stand on.
And yes, the legal system sucks sometimes, but it seems like this guy was being deliberately provocative (Irate Joe's? I mean you're just begging for a fight now).
Bottom line, if you really like fighting with big institutions it's going to cost you money so you either need a really good case (and being deliberately provocative undermines that) or you need deep pockets yourself.
Not so of Pirate Joe's. The Pirate sells goods in Canada that only comply with U.S. market rules (food safety, nutritional markings, etc.).
That's not really the merit of this case, which is more about trademark and branding, but reselling Trader Joe's goods (not meant for resell) in Canada (different market) is hardly comparable to reselling Costco goods (meant for resell) in the U.S. (same market).
They could, and Levi's jeans did it with Tesco who were selling grey market imports.
ALDI Süd operates the American ALDI stores. ALDI Nord owns Trader Joe's.
trademark. he picked the wrong name for his business.
one story said he met his wife in the us. if she was a us citizen that could be an addtional reason he might want to be able to travel to the us.
in other words, he had reasons to care about potentially having an outstanding judgment against him in the us.
or maybe the appeals court date was before he changed the name to pirate joes?
to be fair, i am making an assumption when i say he picked th wrong name (original name was transilvania trading): that he did not want to be sued in the us. but maybe he did. does not sound like he had a large legal budget though.
there is also the possibility that the name of the business and the other things he did to mimick trader joes had nothing to do with courts reasoning. the fact that he sold goods with a us trademark on the label was enough.
in that case maybe the name matters little.
but if that is true, then shouldn't we see some changes in the risk profile for all sellers of grey market goods even when the names of their stores bear no resemblance to any us trademark associated with goods they sell.
all of the grey market stores i have seen have names that do not mimick any trademarks held by the manufacturers of the goods they sell. but maybe i have not seen enough of them.
my opinion is he picked the wrong name. what consumer would think "transilvania trading" was an authorized reseller of trader joes? otoh, "pirate joes"? but what do i know? not much.
I hate that they ran him out of business. I hate companies that try to enforce the no-resell strategy. It's really another version of the "you can't work on your tractor or phone without my permission" strategy.
There's been several recent recalls of flour over the last few months and other foods tainted but you don't see people suing. The government cracks down but people here can't be bothered to be so petty.
I mean sure it happens if it's really serious but for small stuff people would just think you're a dick.
Accidents happen. It doesn't entitle you to a free pay day.
I can see this line of reasoning: a lot of products TJ sells are of TJ's brand. If this individual buys the product but then lets it spoil and resells it and makes someone sick, there might be a chance for that end-consumer to sue TJ for it.
In Poland, where I live, probably every other adult is an "entrepreneur" these days - people start one-man companies because employers all across the board are pushing people away from normal job contracts towards fake, on-paper B2B relationships. If you visit a grocery store in Poland, then while regular clerks are most likely normal employees, there's a good chance that the shift manager is an "entrepreneur".
What's so hard to understand? The guy was using a knock-off name on a well-known brand without permission to sell their same products. Also, food is one of those specially regulated items that distributors must go through certification and checks on quality in most countries as part of consumer protection laws.
Also, I don't know the term for it offhand, (IANAL,) but there's a legal difference between buying a product as a consumer and then disposing of it because you happen not to need it vs. going in and buying in bulk with full intention to resell. There's a kind of implicit agreement when you buy retail.
The first sale doctrine still applies to bulk purchases. If a seller wants to, they can refuse to sell to anyone that they think will latter resell their product.
You can go into a store right now, buy something at full retail price, and list it on eBay. I doubt you would make any money, unless, like Pirate Joe's, you are selling to a market that is unable to buy from the original retailer.
I also don't understand what you are getting at about TJs losing money on commercial real estate. Since TJ doesn't sell in canada, and they sold more in the stores they this guy bought from, didn't they make more money from their real estate?
I thought people do this all the time, successfully defending themselves in court when necessary. Can you show me statute or a current judicial decision that says otherwise?
What happened here, is that Pirate Joe's didn't have enough money to pay their lawyers, so they gave up and settled with Trader Joe's.
More generally, TJs has every right to sell to people on specific terms. That's just freedom of contract.
google cases of people selling as little as 5 items of "esprit" clothing.
if you resell brands and youre not an authorized vendor, youre not going to have a lot of fun for a while.
I can say that this does make me upset at Trader Joe's, and I will be considering where else I can spend my money.
They could have worked with this guy, eventually set up a Trader Joe's in Canada, and then offered to let this guy run it. That would have been better for their brand, in my view.
I care about what companies do. Costco hires employees and treats them well. It pays above average, and it hires and keeps on people with disabilities and injuries, even if they can't do everything someone else can do. It makes me feel good to shop there. And it's employees are loyal, hard working, happy and friendly, and they have less pilferage then other stores.
This idea that a company has a duty to be a dick is silly. Companies should care about their brand, and about being a good corporate citizen.
Good luck finding someone more motivated.
The reason they don't set up in Canada is not lack of motivation, but that as a chain they'll have to get all sorts of products certified as suitable for sale. Most countries have strict rules about the import and sale of fresh produce or meat. Trader Joe's doesn't want to open a store that doesn't carry a full line of products, which would damage their brand. As a small store owner this guy was able to skate on all that regulatory overhead.
It's probably best to think of "What if someone cloned my favorite game and called it a slightly different name?" People had big problems with what Zynga was doing.
> Defendant Michael Norman Hallatt purchased Trader
Joe’s-branded goods in Washington State, transported them
to Canada, and resold them there in a store he designed to
mimic a Trader Joe’s store. Trader Joe’s sued under the
Lanham Act and Washington law.
> It is uncontested
that Defendant Michael Norman Hallatt purchases Trader
Joe’s-branded goods in Washington state, transports them to
Canada, and resells them there in a store he designed to
mimic a Trader Joe’s store.
Emphasis mine and it's a big deal. Trader Joe's would have had a hell of a time bringing a suit if it would be called Hallat's Little Shack and would look like any random grocery store.
So what? The mimicry occurs in Canada, where Trader Joe's apparently does not operate. I thought the whole point of trademark law was to prevent customer confusion, not to give a party property-like rights to some retail "style."
I'm really surprised this is an issue for the US courts at all, and that they didn't refer Trader Joe's to the Canadian court system.
So says Wikipedia:
> Trade dress is a legal term of art that generally refers to characteristics of the visual appearance of a product or its packaging (or even the design of a building) that signify the source of the product to consumers.
IANAL but selling Trading Joe's products and those alone in a store that looks like Trading Joe's could at least give rise to a trade dress claim.
As to extraterritoriality, NAFTA applies, trademarks are recognized across the border.
I'm aware of that. My point is the purpose of that is solely to prevent confusion in consumers, and two stores with similar trade dress in geographically and jurisdictional separate areas should not cause enough confusion to warrant a legal judgement (especially one by a foreign court).
He should have realized the need, and done things like match their product mix with his own brands, work on making the store's own feel, and dampened direct association to Trader Joe's. He didn't and it bit him in the ass. No sympathy here.
It makes so little sense to go after this tiny company when you're not even competing in Canada. Which they probably should! I'm sure there's demand in cities like Toronto for the actual unique products that TJ offers.
I can't believe they opened stores in Germany, but never bothered to open one in Vancouver, where there was proven demand for their products.
: Which is different from the Aldi Süd chain of discount stores which runs stores under the "Aldi" brand in the US.
What we have here is a COO/CEO asleep at the wheel. One of the CEOs most important jobs is to watch the legal department for signs they're about to draw the old foot-gun and start playing "this little piggy" with company toes.
motivated entirely by fear/anger of any perceived change
Oh don't be such a baby, that's like saying engineering departments made up of social cripples who can't hold a conversation like regular business people.
Legal departments are like nervous little dogs who bark at everything. The CEO is the one who has to decide if the potential loss in PR is worth the upside of any given legal action (this case is a good example where it probably wasn't).
The lawyers on staff will do because they can sometimes to justify their jobs (or on retainer will do because billable hours). The CEO has to decide if they should.
Civil courts do not exist outside of the real world. There are consequences to how you use them.
Suppose they had shrugged this off and done nothing. Then a year later I, a rival grocer, open 'Trader Moe's' and open up 50 stores using a very similar business model to Trader Joe's. TJ sues, and my defense is that 'Pirate Joe's infringed on their mark and they did nothing, so I assumed they had abandoned their rights.
This is an affirmative defense in trademark law, by statute, specifically 15 U.S.C. § 1127 A good summary is at http://www3.ce9.uscourts.gov/jury-instructions/node/248
Unlike copyright and patents, trademark durations are infinite, but the price for this is that the owner must aggressively defend any possible infringement or risk a competitor claiming abandonment.
If you were the Chief Marketing Officer of Trader Joe's and I was the CEO, I'd fire you for not knowing this.
I mean, he did change his store name to Pirate Joe’s (from the far more ambiguous Transilvania Trading) and his actions seem to betray less charitable motivations than his words would lead you to believe ("This is not a business I should be doing from a personal profitability standpoint” - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/21/pirate-joes-tr...)
That said, seems like Trader Joe's missed an opportunity for a win-win partnership with someone who had already developed rudimentary logistics to meet a demonstrated demand. But then it doesn't surprise me based on my 30+ years shopping at Trader Joe's: I would never describe them as innovative, instead I'd say they are very focused on what they've been doing well for decades.
From my perspective: every product sold in Canada was purchased in the U.S. so... if anything, this Pirate Joe fellow has provided additional sales for Trader Joes and proved that there is demand for Trader Joe's products in Canada at an incredible 40% markup!
If they're not interested in servicing Canada, would it not be to Trader Joe's advantage to enter a formal franchising or wholesaling agreement with Pirate Joe?
There must be more to this story in terms of Trader Joes objectives as opposed to Pirate Joe's methods or the legal proceedings.
The problem I imagine they have is that someone is selling Trader Joe products (with their label) after handling it themselves, and often having random Craiglists employees handle the items. Prior to this, Trader Joe's (or companies hired by them) are handling the products.
Imagine someone begins tampering with the food items and a few Canadians get sick or injured. This might prompt a recall of all Trader Joe's cookies, not just the ones imported into Canada for example. The FDA wouldn't be able to say that the tampering happened after the products were purchased by Pirate Joe's. The same argument applies to temperature sensitive products as well.
2) Brand Dilution
3) Trademark Protection
Then again it kind of annoys me that TJ's just didn't open a damn store in Canada. And if they don't want to do that then why not just look the other way while someone else took on the risk of importing their products into another country?
But there is nothing illegal about this guy convincing other people to buy stuff for him.
You as a consumer, can sell your goods to whoever you want because of the first sale doctrine, and trader Joe's can't stop you.
Yes they could then ban YOU from buying from there..... But then the guy could just convince someone else to shop there, and around and around it goes.
This certainly wasn't a trademark issue. Trader vs Pirate. There was no question this store wasn't run by Trader Joes/Aldi North. They were buying in bulk to stock a store where they couldn't normally get the goods. Reselling should be 100% A-OK. Any trademarks go along with the products. And as far as I would guess, the grocer certainly wasn't tampering with anything - if (s)he was, they'd go out of business quick.
This is just normal SLAPP-style punitive legal actions that a large monied corporation can do to stop the little guy from doing legal behaviors that they don't like.
That's what I find strange with the often-seen "well, just vote with your wallet" argument when a company screws up; it's almost literally the definition of an oligarchy (IE, more money = more decision power).
However, when Unions show up, they are the equal and opposing force that keeps a company in check with regards to their employees. Some have issues with Unions, as some of them are significantly corrupt. But by and large, unions are the equal and opposite force.
What protects small companies from large companies? In reality, nothing. That's what allows fake-patent shakedowns like the "SSL Patent", or others. And that's by exploiting protections in law... But what happens when one side has *10000 the resources? You capitulate and go bankrupt due to legal fees, legal harassment, and a continual defense against a legal monied attack.
In the end, there's fuck-all you can do. Well, other than whatever the monied plantiff wants.
Yeah, free market. Like "I have more money, and I dont like your face, so I nuisance sue you until you're bankrupt." free market?
That's not a world I want to be part of, continue, or assist in any way.
What kind of world would it be if we didn't even have rules about things like how much lead is acceptable for a person to consume, or what constitutes 'acutely toxic,' or what you are and aren't allowed to put in food?
"Well," the free market idealist replies, "it would be fine. Nobody would consume things with a lot of lead over a competitor without lead. Nobody would use unlabeled toxic things after the first few incidents. Nobody would eat or drink poison over a nutritious competitor."
And that malicious failure to acknowledge that people are not omniscient or in possession of perfect information about The Market on a second-to-second basis is what leads to us accepting those sorts of stupid arguments.
Trader Joe's probably wants to protect their brand in hopes of a future Canadian expansion.
There's no trademark devaluation. There's no copyright infringement. There's no patent infringement. This is straight up First Sale Doctrine stuff. And even if there was the above 3, SCOUTS ruled those rights are exhausted on sale recently.
This is directly an issue of "More Money = Better Legal Justice". And that should be very worrying.
Easiest way to fix this I think is to make it so that the plaintiff in these kinds of suits has to show real, actual damage: not to branding, not to "theoretical sales", not to "possible expansion", but actual and documented ill effects on their business resulting from the activity of the defendant, and more importantly make the award for such a case relative to that damage. That would shut down 90% of these cases overnight.
This is the most tried-and-true, reliable method of becoming rich in history. You buy something at full retail price, move it, and resell it at a higher full retail price.
In capitalism, Pirate Joe's could open up right next door to Trader Joe's and charge whatever prices they like for the products purchased next door.
The only reason anyone's surprised or outrage is that the store feels like a small, homey, good natured place full of organic this and that that's lower priced than you'd expect. That might have been true, 40 years ago. For a store that had the same name, but was a different entity entirely.
Trader Joe's now is just a giant marketing and packaging front for 70 billion dollar a year Aldi, a multinational chain. It's a corporation. None of this behavior surprises me at all.
This is pretty straightforward legal bullying, in my opinion.
Even though copyright infringement might not have been his intent, intent doesn't matter. That said, this does look like egregious legal bullying even if the case holds water.
FWIW, I live 4 blocks from Pirate Joes and can tell you that no-one thought of it "as a kind of Trader Joe's".
Okay, maybe there are a few uninformed people but it's still a very long way from "everyone".
I think this debate is more about how one can define "kind of Trader Joe's" than about how one associated it with the company.
>by Trader Joe's
*I've never actually patronized any of these sellers, but I've been tempted.
If the person wants to order 10,000 palettes of cookies at retail price, why wouldn't you sell the cookies to the person? He's not stealing from the back of the store, he's paying full price. I'm very confused why Trader Joe's would not have created a direct connection with the guy.
This reminds me of major services cutting off API access because they thought they could do it better in-house. Just HIRE the person doing your own service better in a different way.
I love in Toronto and my girlfriend is going to school in philly. Every time she visits she brings up treats from TJ's
There's a chilli-lime spice shaker, and an "everything bagen seasoning" shaker. I've never seen either of those combinations in a single shaker. If I wanted to make either of these at home from constituent parts it would actually be challenging. (powdered lime is really hard to find, maybe not as much for everything bagel)
The chili lime is amazing on popcorn by the way.
Anyways - the thing that makes TJ's so special is if you go into the store there are hundreds of things that you've never seen anywhere else interesting and experimental flavor combinations etc... on top of that, the prices are reasonable instead of "gouging". (possibly cheap, but I haven't shopped there enough to make that claim).
There is no shop in Canada quite like it - but that's because we're dominated by the "big-box-grocery-store"
I wouldn't say there was any single item which was must have at TJs - but on aggregate it is without question "that much better" than anything we have in Canada.
Up near the top of the list was "how far is it to the nearest Trader Joe's?"
At least they have tiny parking lots 
Same here - the last time I went they didn't have lettuce.
I haven't been back.
Maybe they see Target Canada failure and are scared away by that?
The main draw to Trader Joe's is that its part of the journey across the line. This week I'll be doing this same old routine -- pick up some packages at the mail place ($2 per package), hit up a few grocery stores for different hot sauces and staples (including condensed milk in a squeeze tube), have lunch in Bellingham, go for a walk around Fairhaven, then return home.
Trader Joe's is part of that journey, much like Target (who had a massive, depressing attempt to break into Canada). Strip away that special-trip aspect, and all you really have is another grocery store with a few exceptional items.
Why didn't he just create his own store with his own brand and mimic the Trader Joes products and aesthetic? He could buy goods in bulk at much lower prices. He doesn't have to worry (much) about legal issues or spend money on them.
Clearly demand was so high he could still get away with charging very high prices.
I'm sorry? Trader Joes, in at least 4 locations I've seen in California, does special signs and displays the week before Burning Man to market to Burners. Where is this writer from?
Right now he would simply stop buying the other products while having his own brand.
If I go to DisneyWorld, purchase a Mickey Mouse doll, an take it home. I have the right to do with that doll whatever I want: burn it, give it to my daughter, or resell it at whatever price I see fit.
However, I don't believe I have to right to go - as an agent of another (presumed competitor), purchase that same doll, and then resell it in my own store. I have no resell agreement with Disney to do so. In a typical reseller arrangement, wouldn't a store (e.g. Target) have an agreement with Disney to purchase bulk product for resell, presumably at a reduced price, but also under strict guidelines as to how it could do so? For example: cannot be sold above a certain price, cannot be sold next to adult content, etc.
On a side note: I have to believe that (while not a TJ problem or related to the lawsuit) there were other issues with what Pirate Joe's was doing related to imports, possible tariffs not being adhered to, etc.