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Best Buy is threatening to sue a Catholic priest over his Beetle that reads "God Squad". Best Buy claims that violates its Geek Squad trademark.  (Source: Flickr)
Best Buy accuses Catholic Priest of violating its trademark and Geek Squad look

Father Luke Strand of the Holy Family Parish in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, has a pretty interesting ride.  He drives around town in a black Volkswagen Beetle with a logo featuring the phrase "God Squad" emblazoned on it.  That logo and the vehicle itself bear a striking similarity to the mobile service vehicles of Best Buy's service team, the Geek Squad.

Apparently, Best Buy isn't pleased with its look being appropriated by this man of the cloth.  Lawyers for the electronics retailer sent Father Strand a cease-and-desist letter telling him to ditch the logo or face consequences.  

Father Strand mentioned the letter at his Sunday Mass.

Speaking to the
Fond du Lac Reporter, Father Strand defended the logo.  He says he uses the logo as a creative way to spur discussions and bring his faith to the community.

Best Buy told reporters for the 
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that while it appreciates Father Strand's sentiments, it cannot stand by and watch its trademarks be violated.

The legal dispute revives a long ongoing question of just how much ownership to an icon a company can claim.  Apple, Inc., for example, has been particularly zealous in legally assailing those who supposedly violated its trademark.  From New York City to music festivals, anyone who used the logo of an Apple -- or particularly a logo of an Apple with a bite out of it -- was hit with lawsuits or cease-and-desist letters. 

Some argue that companies are taking trademark enforcement to far; corporate lawyers would obviously disagree.

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owning a trademark
By paydirt on 8/16/2010 1:00:52 PM , Rating: 3
owning a trademark without making a point of defending it does subject you to the risk of not being able to defend it when it really matters, right?

RE: owning a trademark
By ppardee on 8/16/2010 1:22:21 PM , Rating: 2
IIRC from my trademarks/copyrights/patents class, you're right. The real question is do they have a valid case? I would imagine this would qualify as Fair Use.

The purpose of the trademark is to ensure that the company can maintain its reputation with consumers. A restaurant can't call itself McDonald's if it is not a registered franchise. This would damage McDonald's and also the consumer (since they were expecting a different product).

The priest isn't competitor, the logo isn't likely to cause brand confusion, but the courts have a tendency to side with the owner of the trademark in even the most ridiculous cases, like with White vs Samsung.

RE: owning a trademark
By dlapham on 8/16/2010 1:35:10 PM , Rating: 3
Darn, I hope they don't find out about my church McDonald road.

RE: owning a trademark
By knutjb on 8/16/2010 5:06:47 PM , Rating: 1
I don't know about the rest of you but I remember hearing the term "God Squad" long before I ever heard of "Best Buy," let alone "Geek Squad."

The logo and the car are kind a pushing it but at the expense of bad publicity what were the bozos at BB smoking? Does BB really think this is a good idea... The only confusion I see here belongs to BB and the goof squad.

RE: owning a trademark
By maverick85wd on 8/16/10, Rating: 0
RE: owning a trademark
By Suntan on 8/16/10, Rating: -1
RE: owning a trademark
By nolisi on 8/17/2010 11:56:01 AM , Rating: 5
Heaven forbid a priest try to make Christianity a little more accessible with a bit of humor and/or tongue-in-cheek advertising. But there are a fair number of intolerant (to things like religion) liberals there in Richfield, MN. I wouldn’t doubt it that he was served because he was a man of religion as much as anything else.

While I highly approve your use of irony in that statement ("Heaven forbid a priest"), I do disapprove of your blind bias toward anything liberal. Liberals did not serve him a lawsuit, a corporation did. In case you aren't aware, large scale corporate interests are usually on the conservative side. And we're talking about Best Buy, a company who, as recently as this year, donated money to conservative causes.

But nice try trying to pin everything under the sun on liberals.

RE: owning a trademark
By Suntan on 8/17/2010 1:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
A person can have “conservative” ideals to things like business while having “liberal” ideals to things like religion. That is why I stated it as I did.

I work a couple blocks from the BB headquarters. I’m just making a comment based on my opinion of the people that live in the area. I’m not making a comment based on all liberals and all conservatives the world over.


RE: owning a trademark
By iNGEN2 on 8/17/2010 6:58:08 PM , Rating: 2
Historically, the courts have said that the parts/uses of your trademark you find unobjectionable define fair use. It actually sounds like a good way to establish the integrity of a trademark, but unfortunately it encourages companies to sue everybody.

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