Legal fight closes Trader Joe’s B.C. knock-off

VANCOUVER — The British Columbia grocery store operator who once said he was doing “nothing but good” for the American chain store Trader Joe’s, has given up his fight to bring the U.S. retailer’s products to Canada.

Michael Hallatt has permanently closed his Vancouver outlet of Pirate Joe’s, rather than face another trademark lawsuit from California-based Trader Joe’s later this year.

Hallatt has been battling Trader Joe’s since 2013, when he was sued in a U.S. court but won the copyright infringement case.

In the years following the lawsuit, Hallatt dropped the “P” from his store’s banner, becoming Irate Joe’s, as Trader Joe’s continued its legal efforts to shut him down.

More than a year ago, a district court in Washington state ruled it could not hear a second suit against Hallatt because the alleged trademark violations happened in Canada and because Trader Joe’s failed to explain how its business was being harmed.

But Hallatt confirmed in a Facebook post Wednesday that his store would likely close immediately, because he can’t afford further court battles after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district court decision.

The circuit court ruled Pirate Joe’s and Hallatt’s conduct could harm Trader Joe’s reputation.

The U.S grocer does not have stores in Canada, but Hallatt would drive to Washington state and bring popular items back to Vancouver, where he says customers could expect to pay a 30 per cent mark up, after the currency exchange.

When the second court case was allowed to proceed last summer, Hallatt said he was confident the law was on his side under old legislation called the first-sale doctrine.

He also said Pirate Joe’s wasn’t trying to mimic Trader Joe’s.

The name Pirate Joe’s is “shorthand for unauthorized and unaffiliated. It doesn’t get much clearer than that,” he said in an August 2016 interview.

A sandwich board outside the Pirate Joe’s location on Thursday said simply, “Goliath wins.”

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