Target targeted

With its recent purchase of Zellers leases, Target – every Canadian’s first stop on cross-border shopping trips – plans to move into the Canadian market.  Unfortunately, the company may have to leave its brand name back home, because someone up here is already using it:

Fairweather Ltd. has filed a $250-million Federal Court lawsuit against American discount retailer Target, which recently announced Canadian expansion plans.

In documents filed Monday, Fairweather is seeking an injunction to prevent the U.S. company from using the Target name in Canada. The American discount retailer announced last week it plans to open roughly 150 stores in Canada, after it bought the lease interests of more than 220 Zellers locations across the country.

Fairweather, owned by retailing mogul Isaac Benitah, claims it has owned the rights to the Target name in Canada for more than a decade, when it bought the rights to that brand and others from now-defunct retailer Dylex Ltd.


The documents say Fairweather has been operating a Toronto clothing store under Target Apparel since at least 2005. There are also locations in Sudbury, Ont., and Nanaimo, B.C., and more store openings are planned in Surrey, B.C., and elsewhere.

This isn’t the first time the two companies have had legal altercations. Their clashes go back to 2001, when the U.S. chain first took issue of Benitah’s use of Target.

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled in Benitah’s favour in 2007, before the U.S. retailer tried again in 2010, in a case that is ongoing.

There is precedent for an American corporation not being able to use its iconic brand name in Canada – for years, the world’s most famous cigarette brand wasn’t available in Canada, because another company registered the “Marlboro” name before Philip Morris got around to it.   (The whole, tangled story is explained in this Federal Court decision.)

I suspect this will be settled by the old “back a truckload of money into the other guy’s driveway” method, but if Target (the American one) isn’t successful, look for the new stores to feature some other, token brand name – and the company’s iconic logo plastered all over the place.

(Related: a 1972 Time magazine article explaining why the “Esso” name – still used on gas stations all over the world, except in the United States – was replaced with “Exxon” down there.  Canadian travelers to the U.S. will notice that the stations are identical in all but name.)

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