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Trader Joe’s loses a Trademark Battle to its own Employee Union


Trader Joe’s filed suit in Los Angeles federal court claiming that its employee union, Trader Joe’s United, was infringing the Trader Joe’s trademarks. The employee union was selling mugs, apparel, pins, and tote bags on the union website using the mark TRADER JOE’S UNITED related to its labor activism efforts.

Trader Joe’s suit claimed that these items (especially the tote bag) would cause a likelihood of confusion with the TRADER JOE’S marks. The court considered the eight factors to determine if there was a likelihood of confusion:

  1. strength of the mark;
  2. proximity or relatedness of the goods;
  3. similarity of the sight, sound and meaning of the marks;
  4. evidence of actual confusion;
  5. degree to which the marketing channels converge;
  6. types of goods and degree of care consumers are likely to exercise when purchasing them;
  7. intent of defendants in selecting the infringing mark;
  8. likelihood that the parties will expand their product lines;

The court found that the goods were not related, except for tote bags, and found that since the employee union goods were found on the union website, which is openly critical of Trader Joe’s labor practices, that no likelihood of confusion would exist.

Trader Joe’s has not been keen on their employees unionizing, and the National Labor Relations Board has filed multiple complaints against Trader Joe’s relating to its conduct. In what is potentially uncoincidental, Trader Joe’s filed this lawsuit just six days after the NLRB filed a complaint against Trader Joe’s. The court recognized this and was not pleased that Trader Joe’s brought the suit, stating that it was “dangerously close” to being frivolous and improper, and (bluntly) stating that their timing and lack of merits in the case “leads the Court to the conclusion that this case is an attempt to weaponize the legal system to gain advantage in an ongoing labor dispute between Trader Joe’s and the Union representing its workers.” As a result, the court dismissed the entire lawsuit.