Judge tosses trademark lawsuit in Trader Joe’s dispute

This Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 photo shows the original Trader Joe’s grocery store in Pasadena, Calif.

This Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 photo shows the original Trader Joe’s grocery store in Pasadena, Calif. AP

Staff Report

Published: 01-17-2024 1:22 PM

HADLEY — A federal judge has dismissed a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by Trader Joe’s against Trader Joe’s United, the independent union of store workers.

The national grocery chain filed suit in July 2023, alleging that the union’s line of merchandise infringed on the company’s own marks and was likely to cause consumer confusion.

In his Friday order, U.S. District Court Judge Hernán D. Vera of the Central District of California dismissed the suit “in its entirety,” stating that the union’s merchandise posed no likelihood of confusion.

“The logos used by the union are in a different font ... and are applied to products that no reasonable consumer could confuse as coming from Trader Joe’s itself,” he stated.

Vera wrote that the lawsuit “is undoubtedly related to an existing labor dispute,” and concluded that the company was trying “to weaponize the legal system to gain advantage.”

He also characterized the lawsuit as coming “dangerously close to the line of Rule 11,” which allows district courts to sanction parties that submit pleadings that are frivolous, that lack evidentiary support, or are submitted for an improper purpose.

In a statement, the union said it felt vindicated by the judge’s decision.

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“Instead of acting in good faith, Trader Joe’s has sought to disempower organizing workers through this lawsuit and other actions. We hope this moment spurs Trader Joe’s to move forward with integrity.”

Workers at Trader Joe’s Hadley store were the first in the nation to unionize. Trader Joe’s United also represents company workers in Minneapolis, and two more stores in Louisville, Kentucky, and Oakland, California, have unionized.