Image Credit: Lawsuit
Trader Joe’s filed a lawsuit against its union on Thursday for trademark infringement, claiming that the union’s merchandise was too similar to the Trader Joe’s logo, and demanding that the union’s profits off that merchandise be given to Trader Joe’s.“For more than fifty years, Trader Joe’s has worked tirelessly to assure that the TRADER JOE’S mark is associated only with goods and services of the highest quality,” read the lawsuit, which was filed against Trader Joe’s United in the Central District Court in California. “As a result of Trader Joe’s remarkable success, the TRADER JOE’S Family of Marks have come to symbolize extraordinary goodwill and have achieved great fame both within the United States and around the world.”
“Defendant is an independent labor union that, without authorization, has started using the TRADER JOE’S Family of Marks on merchandise that it sells for profit, including reusable tote bags, apparel, mugs, and buttons,” it continued. One image included in the lawsuit shows the union’s logo, which includes the words “Trader Joe’s United” in red, around a fist raised in solidarity and holding a box cutter.
The merchandise in question includes pins and tote bags, which representatives for the union say workers sell in order to self-fund the independent organizing effort. The union first began organizing in Massachusetts and Minnesota in 2022 over safety concerns, and won two store elections in those states. Subsequent union elections have been unsuccessful, however, as workers say the chain has started retaliating against them. “I think this is ridiculous,” said Seth Goldstein, a lawyer at Julien, Mirer, Singla and Goldstein, who works to represent the union. “There is no way that you can confuse Trader Joe’s United with Trader Joe's, especially since this is a labor union context. And to deprive the employees [from being] able to use their logo and to be able to fundraise from that logo, really deprives their right to engage in collective action.”
In the lawsuit, Trader Joe’s states it does not demand that the union stop using the store’s name to identify itself, but that the red typeface and concentric circle design of some of its merchandise was too similar. “Trader Joe’s is entitled to a permanent injunction, restraining and enjoining Defendant [Trader Joe’s United]...from using in commerce the TRADER JOE’S Family of Marks or any colorable imitations thereof. Trader Joe’s is also entitled to recover Defendant’s profits, increased to adequately compensate Trader Joe’s,” the lawsuit states. Trader Joe’s is also asking for the union to “deliver up for destruction all commercial merchandise in its possession” that was in violation of the trademark.“I think it sets a dangerous precedent for the future,” Goldstein said. “It won't be long before Starbucks goes after the Starbucks workers, or Amazon goes after the [Amazon Labor Union] workers. So we're taking a stand to make sure that workers’ rights are protected.”Goldstein said he didn’t know if the case would proceed to trial, as Trader Joe’s has requested. A Trader Joe’s spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.