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Trader Joe’s Takes Legal Action Against Union

Grocer contends that group’s branding infringes on its IP
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Trader Joe's United is accused of trademark infringment in a suit filed by the grocer in California.

Trader Joe’s filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles court to stop a union from using a logo deemed too similar to its own official logo. According to media reports in Vice and SFGate, the grocer claims that the Trader Joe's United imagery represents copyright infringement.

“Certain…products use the Trader Joe’s typed word mark and stylized word mark, the unique Trader Joe’s typeface and red coloring, and/or the concentric circle design and general composition of the registered Trader Joe’s logo. Trader Joe’s has not authorized [the union] to use Trader Joe’s intellectual property in this way to advertise and sell merchandise,” the company’s attorneys declared in the complaint.

[Read more: “Trader Joe’s Building Distribution Center in Southern California”]

The Monrovia, Calif.-based retailer took the legal route after the union refused to comply with its request earlier this year to remove the contested logo. Trader Joe’s United argued that the company was trying to block its organizing efforts and fundraising.   

In the July 13 legal action, Trader Joe’s noted that the union’s merchandise, including reusable tote bags, mugs and buttons, is “likely to cause consumer confusion.” Further, the grocer contends that it is entitled to monetary compensation from the sale of those items.

Seth Goldstein, an attorney for Trader Joe’s United, told Vice that the lawsuit was without merit. “I think this is ridiculous. 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,” he said.

Organized labor issues have continued to crop up for Trader Joe’s. In July 2022, workers at a location in Hadley, Mass., voted to form the retailer’s first union, a move that was followed by stores in Louisville, Ky., and Oakland, Calif. In June, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against Trader Joe’s for the alleged removal of pro-union literature from a break room at a Minneapolis store.  

With more than 500 stores in 40-plus states, Trader Joe’s is No. 27 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named the company as one of its Retailers of the Century.

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