A Canadian grocer whose ongoing battle with Trader Joe’s began in Bellingham is turning to crowdfunding for his legal fees.
Mike Hallatt began Pirate Joe’s, a small grocery in Vancouver, B.C., when he noticed a big difference between prices at Trader Joe’s stores in Bellingham and similar items in Vancouver. He soon began making cross-border shopping trips, buying at Trader Joe’s in the U.S. and reselling the organic and GMO-free products in Canada.
“We are an unauthorized, unaffiliated, international grocery smuggling operation,” Pirate Joe’s boasts on its Instagram account.
Hallatt – who said he’s been kicked out of the “notorious” Bellingham store about 100 times – has battled the grocery chain for years.
Trader Joe’s sued Hallatt in 2013, citing copyright infringement and false advertising. He won that legal fight, but now faces a new lawsuit, according to CTV News – Trader Joe’s says Hallatt is not following the company’s quality control procedures.
Hallatt hopes to raise $50,000 by the end of June via a crowdfunding platform called CrowdJustice.
“The level that they’re taking this is just so extreme,” Hallatt said in the CTV Vancouver report. “No one can really make sense of it.”
A Trader Joe’s spokeswoman told the Vancouver Sun the company declined comment while the litigation is pending.
Pamala Sheppard, owner of Auntie Pam’s in Point Roberts, also offered Trader’s Joe’s products to U.S. and Canadian customers until she received a cease-and-desist order from the company’s lawyers. Not wanting a court battle, she has started a petition to convince Trader Joe’s to allow her to sell specific items – the petition failed to persuade Trader Joe’s.
Re-selling another company’s products is legal in both Canada and the U.S., said Mike Matesky, Hallatt’s lawyer. He contends the case “could change the face of trademark law and the secondary market in all sorts of goods.”