business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times reports that Pirate Joe's - the Canadian retailer that would satisfy Trader Joe's fans north of the border by shopping in bulk at a Trader Joe's in Seattle and then bringing the stuff to British Columbia and selling it at inflated prices - has shut down its operations "after a protracted legal battle with the American corporation."

Mike Hallatt, the founder of Pirate Joe’s, first got sued by Trader Joe's in 2013, accused of "trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin and false advertising." Buying enough product to make the project worthwhile was a complicated affair, with Hallatt sometimes wearing disguises or dressing in drag to make the purchases, and sometimes hiring other people to shop for him.

According to the story, "A Federal District Court in Washington ruled that the violations had occurred in Canada, where Trader Joe’s has no stores, and that Trader Joe’s had failed to prove that Pirate Joe’s affected its business in the United States. In August 2016, a federal appeals court sent the case back to the lower court for a trial, which was scheduled to take place in November."

Hallatt reportedly wanted to continue the fight, but a crowdfunding effort to raise enough money to pay the lawyers came up short, and "on Wednesday, the two sides reached a settlement."

I sort of feel bad about this. Not that I want Trader Joe's rights to be infringed upon, but the idea that there was this guy out there who was working so hard to smuggle its products into another country just sort of appealed to me.

That kind of passion is an Eye-Opener.

It is a shame that it didn't appeal more to Trader Joe's, and that there wasn't a way they could've worked with him - even if obliquely - to make its products available in the Vancouver market even before it opens stores there.

On the other hand, a pirate who has been co-opted by the man really isn't a pirate anymore ... and he finds out that the occupational hazard is that his occupation's just not around."
KC's View: