British Columbia

Pirate Joe's owner plans 'big M' fast food joint

The Vancouver entrepreneur who won a trademark infringement fight with Trader Joe's is now planning a fast food burger joint - with a big black letter M for a logo.

Trader Joe's lost trademark infringement lawsuit against Vancouver's Pirate Joe's in October

Trader Joe's sued Michael Hallatt, the owner of Pirate Joe's in Vancouver, earlier this year, but a U.S. judge dismissed the case. (CBC)

The Vancouver entrepreneur who won a trademark infringement fight with Trader Joe's is now planning a fast food burger joint - with a big black letter M for a logo.

Michael Hallatt currently makes a living shopping at Trader Joe's in the U.S. and reselling the goods in Vancouver at his Pirate Joe's store.

Last month a Washington State judge dismissed a lawsuit against Hallatt, ruling that Trader Joe's - which does not operate in Canada - could not prove Pirate Joe's was hurting its brand.

That's not the case with McDonald's, which has more than 1400 locations in Canada, but Hallatt said his plans for a burger store using 'M' as a logo are just meeting demand.

"The problem I have is I want a healthier hamburger than the one McDonald's is offering," said Hallatt.

Pirate Joe's resells Trader Joe's merchandise purchased in the U.S. (CBC)
"I think there's an alternative and it requires an entrepreneur to look at it again, revisit fast food and rather than looking at sugar and salt as a way of making things tasty, start with fresh, organic, sustainably harvested ingredients.

Gina Lupino, an U.S. intellectual property lawyer articling in Vancouver, says Hallatt should make sure customers don't confuse the shop with existing players. 

"If I were representing him I'd tell him, 'Before you pick a fight, at least go and do some trademark clearance searches'," said Lupino.

Hallatt said he does plan to run his new venture by his lawyers... but in the end, he believes he has every right to open a fast food joint using the letter 'M' as a logo.

"Let's say you see my black M and you're thinking that must be a reference to McDonald's in some way, you know it's a free market," said Hallatt.

McDonald's doesn't have a copyright on the letter M, I don't think.- Micheal Hallatt, Pirate Joe's

"McDonald's doesn't have a copyright on the letter M, I don't think. I know corporations tend to overreach, I've had some experience with that recently."

Hallatt hopes a crowdfunding push in the coming months will have him flipping burgers by summer 2014.

'The Big M'

Hallatt's new venture should not be confused with other enterprises to also use a big letter M as a logo or name.

Most notable of all is the first ever McDonald's restaurant. Opened in 1940 by the McDonald brothers, it was forced to change its name to "The Big M" when all the other franchises in the chain were sold to Ray Kroc in 1961.

'The Big M' was eventually driven out of business, after Kroc opened a McDonald's franchise just one block away.

Also not to be confused with either venture, is The Big M, a burger restaurant in Pickering, Ont., which first opened in 1965 and has a bright red M as a logo.


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