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‘Malice’ and ‘Vulgarity’: Why Patagonia and Trader Joe’s Sued This Mystery T-shirt Maker

Patagonia and Trader Joe’s both recently filed lawsuits against print-on-demand t-shirt seller T-ShirtAt, for trademark infringement, for selling satirical and vulgar prints based off the plaintiffs’ iconic branding.

Attorneys for Patagonia and Trader Joe’s wrote in court filings that they did not know exactly who T-ShirtAt is. On its website, the company lists an address in Cleveland, Texas, a phone number with a Delaware area code, and when T-ShirtAt didn’t respond to their cease-and-desist letters in 2021, representatives for the Trader Joe’s bought a “Traitor Joe” (with a photo of President Joe Biden) T-shirt that came delivered with a return address in Stafford, Texas.

Stafford and Cleveland, Texas are 62 miles apart.

T-ShirtAt did not respond to Sourcing Journal email requests and the phone number listed on its website did not pick up nor go to voicemail.

Of the two filings, only Trader Joe’s complaint highlighted the profane disparagement of the brand, particularly regarding the shirt emblazoned with the phrase “I got my a** ate at Trader Joe’s.”

“’I got my a** ate at’ creates an association between Trader Joe’s and vulgarity, low quality goods and poor taste,” attorneys for Trader Joe’s wrote in their 16-page complaint filed April 20 in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. “Use of the authentic Trader Joe’s logo and Trader Joe’s word mark on its products in connection with the phrase ‘Traitor Joe’s’ and an image of President Biden creates an association between Trader Joe’s and criticism of the U.S. president, which is likely to impugn Trader Joe’s reputation in the minds of certain consumers who disagree with that political commentary.”

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In the case of Patagonia, however, the issue is all about the P-6 logo and the Mount Fitz Roy silhouette. The California-based outfitter has recently filed suits against Walmart, Gap, Mad Engine Global, Robin Ruth for that very reason, and in the last of seven claims in the suit against T-ShirtAt, wrote, “Defendant’s conduct is aggravated by that kind of willfulness, wantonness, malice and conscious indifference to the rights and welfare of Patagonia, for which California law allows the imposition of exemplary damages.”

The ”wantonness and malice” Patagonia attorneys may be referring to in their 21-page document filed in the Central District of California, Western Division, is a shirt in a similar font and image that reads, “patagof***yourself.”

Other less obscene, but just as problematic shirt designs included in the lawsuit say “Wakanda,” taken from the Marvel Comics’ film “Black Panther” and another that reads “Catagonia.”

“The T-shirt AT Fashion Designs are identical and substantially similar to the P-6 logo artwork and the registered P-6 logo trademark,” Patagonia attorneys wrote. “Defendant’s products… are identical to and compete directly with goods sold by Patagonia, including, shirts.”

Trader Joe’s is suing for federal trademark infringement, federal trademark dilution, California statutory unfair competition and California common law trademark infringement and unfair competition. Plaintiff is asking for unspecified statutory, punitive damages and legal costs, and for the court to “permanently and immediately” enjoin the defendant from any further use of the Trader Joe’s trademark and the destruction of all goods in its possession that bear the Trader Joe’s trademark.