God 1, Best Buy Geeks 0

Hello, and welcome to another installment of Too Many Lawyers, Not Enough Brain Cells. Today’s lucky contestant: Best Buy’s Geek Squad. Apparently, the Geeks are willing to take on anyone, up to and including The Almighty.

According to a report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Best Buy’s coven of copyright attorneys sent a cease and desist letter to Father Luke Strand of Fond du Lac, Wisc. The padre’s crime? He took the Geek Squad logo, altered it to read “God Squad,” and painted it on the side of his Volkswagen Beetle.

Apparently, Best Buy is afraid the good father might cut into their business by exorcising the demons in possessed PCs.

This is right up there with Apple claiming ownership of the word “pad” in all its digital forms (despite the fact that the term “iPad” was originally trademarked by Fujitsu).

It even rivals the National Pork Board attempting to sue novelty retailer ThinkGeek over its appropriation of the phrase “the other white meat” to sell canned unicorn meat. (In case you’re suddenly hankering for a juicy McUniburger, it is my unfortunate duty to inform you that this was merely an April Fool’s Day joke.)

Yet this is not the only episode of Best Buy Attorneys Gone Wild. Earlier this year, Best Buy tried to prevent rival PC repair service Rescuecom from buying Google keyword ads linked to “Geek Squad.” It managed to sue a smaller company called Geek Patrol out of existence. In the past it has also fought companies calling themselves Geek Choice, Geek Brigade, and Rent a Geek, to name but a few.

The lesson here? If you plan to use the work ‘Geek’ in a professional context, expect a body cavity search from the big box retailer.

I understand that, given how the law is written, companies are forced to defend their copyrights or risk losing them. But suing a priest? Over a logo he put on his VW bug? Seriously? Yes, seriously. Per the Journal-Sentinel:

Paula Baldwin, senior manager for public relations at Best Buy, said the company aggressively defends its trademarks and notified Strand “because of the unfortunate similarities between their logo and ours.”

“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,” she said in an email.

Baldwin said Best Buy is working with Strand to alter the God Squad logo in a way that it will still work for him without infringing on the Geek Squad trademark.

“We’re confident that together we’ll come up with a good (dare we say heavenly?) solution for everyone,” she said.

Ugh. I think old Paula needs to recite 10,000 Hail Marys to repent for that one.

Father Strand also painted the URL for the Archdiocese’s Thinkpriest.org on the bug’s right wheel well. Maybe the ThinkGeek guys should sue him. According to the Journal-Sentinel, his license plate reads GODLUVYA. I’m sure the Godiva chocolates attorneys might have something to say about that.

This is the kind of story the blogosphere (including yours truly) just eats up. It turns a well-executed marketing concept into a punch line, and makes a company with a decent reputation seem evil. Instead of dropping attorneys on the good father’s head, how about offering to fund some charitable works in exchange for him repainting his car? Or, heck, maybe they can train Father Luke how to fix PCs while he’s mending souls and give him a job.

There were a lot of ways to turn this situation into a PR coup for Best Buy and get both God and the InterWebs on their side. Those opportunities are now gone.

I’m sure Father Luke will forgive them. The rest of us? Not so much.

Got more examples of stupid lawyer tricks? E-mail me: [email protected].

InfoWorld (US)

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