There is some wildly Canadian drama playing out in the world of retail right now, as a family in Quebec who recently snagged the Zellers trademark and managed to open a couple of rogue stores is being sued by Hudson’s Bay.
Hold onto your toques, folks, this is an odd one. Zellers, which began in 1931, was purchased by Hudson’s Bay Company in 1978, then shuttered in 2013, has seen a resurgence lately in Canadian pop culture. Recently, a Bay location in Ontario launched a Zellers pop-up with the look and feel of the old-school store, but without the famously low prices or Zeller’s restaurant. While Hudson’s Bay seems legally within their rights to do open this pop-up, this is where the story gets interesting.
According to Retail Insider, the Hudson’s Bay Company let the Zellers trademark lapse in September of last year, opening the door for the Moniz family in Quebec to register it themselves. They did just that, and have apparently opened a small mock-up location of the Canadian store about 80 km from Montreal in the small city of Sorel-Tracy, but they certainly haven’t stopped there.
They also have plans to open a second Zellers location in the near future – two moves that ultimately put them on HBC’s radar.
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To the surprise of the Moniz’s, the Hudsons’s Bay Company definitely didn’t take very kindly to this – so much so, that they filed a Statement of Claim in the Federal Court of Canada, naming the family and their various Zellers-re-trademarked companies as the defendants.
“To protect its ZELLERS brand and avoid consumer confusion, HBC has filed a claim in the Federal Court of Canada for passing off, trademark infringement, and depreciation of goodwill,” they told Retail Insider in a statement.
“The allegations in the claim relate to planned unauthorized third-party ZELLERS stores, among other unauthorized uses of the ZELLERS brand. HBC intends to pursue this claim vigorously.”
Now we’re sure you’ll agree when we say that this is probably going to get pretty messy, but it will be quite some time until we see this one take a courtroom by storm.
As of today, this particular case has yet to be assigned to a government examiner, so don’t expect any answers anytime soon.
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Although they let their ‘beloved’ trademark expire, HBC claims that the allotted time that it belonged to them should mean something, unapologetically making plans to open another Zellers pop-up like the one they opened in Ontario in the near future.
The location of the future pop-ups? Quebec, of course, where the Moriz family opened their own retail store under the same brand name.
It’s a crazy time, Canada!
As always we’ll keep you updated, so check back and buckle up – world war Z has just begun.
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