By now you may have heard the news reports about a Milwaukee priest who received the cease-and-desist order from Best Buy because his VW Beetle has a logo on it that says “God Squad” and looks an awful lot like Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” logo.
Most people I’ve seen have criticized Best Buy for being a big bully cracking down on a priest just trying to do his part in spreading the Word of God. But I’m not quite so ready to ding Best Buy completely. Now, I’m not necessarily a fan of the store. I don’t think much of their customer service or of their heavy-handed hard-sell of extended warranties. And I’ve heard horror stories of Geek Squad technicians rooting around in people’s private files while repairing computers.
However, in this case, Best Buy is only doing what a flawed trademark law requires it to do: protect its trademarks.
“This was a really difficult thing for us to do because we appreciate what Father Strand is trying to accomplish with his mission. But at the end of the day, it’s bad precedent to let some groups violate our trademark while pursuing others,” [Paula Baldwin, senior manager for public relations at Best Buy] said in an e-mail.
In fact, it’s not just bad precedent. They have to do it. I’m no lawyer, but it’s my understanding that if they don’t defend the trademark in all circumstances, then can lose the right to it. Just ask the owners of all these genericized trademarks about the need to defend.
Moreover, Best Buy is also apparently working with the priest to come up with a new logo that doesn’t infringe the Geek Squad trademark, while also accomplishing the goal of evangelization. I think that’s a pretty good solution. In this case, I don’t think Best Buy deserves the slings and arrows.