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The "slovenly" faux-Best Buy employee is pictured in Newegg's latest commercial; a real Best Buy employee is pictured in a separate image. Can you tell which is which?  (Source: M-Live, YouTube)

Best Buy is also upset about Newegg's new "Geek On" Logo, which it says violates its Geek Squad-related trademarks.
Commercial depicts clueless blue-shirted employee struggling to explain products to customers

Is it illegal to show a video of a blue polo-wearing employee in a computer store?  Best Buy's legal staff appear to think so.

I. Best Buy Upset About "Slovenly", "Uninformed" Employee Depiction

They sent a legal threat to City of Industry, California-based online retailer for a new commercial that found its way onto TV and on YouTube, the world's most used video sharing site.  Best Buy writes:
We... recently learned that Newegg is running a commercial on television and YouTube (" rel="nofollow) depicting a blue-shirted salesperson in a store with a similar layout/color scheme to a Best Buy store, so as to represent a Best Buy employee.  The fake Best Buy employee is depicted as slovenly and uninformed about computer products, in contrast to your employees who are portrayed as "experts."

Your... negative portrayal of our employees violates trademark rights and misleads customers about our services, in violation of federal and state law.  While we welcome fair competition, we cannot tolerate unfair competition that disparages our employess, confuses our customers and damages our valuable trademarks and goodwill associated with those marks.  We take great pride in our employees and the high quality of customer service they offer and find your company's focus on our employees in this advertising campaign particularly offensive.  We expect that you would be equally offended if the tables were turned and a competitor launched an advertising campaign portraying your employees as slovenly and uninformed.
To be fair, the employee pictured doesn't appear particularly "slovenly" -- a trip to your local Best Buy store will reveal he in fact is pretty much the norm -- the store is home to the world's most well-coiffed employees in our experience.

In reality, Best Buy may be getting a little uncomfortable as the ad hits a bit too close to home.  One YouTube commenter (uprated 125 times) remarks:
Sadly, this IS what best buy is.

There's a reason knowledgeable people don't shop at best buy, and poor consumers get ripped off without even knowing it.
Another comments, "oh man this commercial is giving best buy employees? too much credit."

The encounter depicted is in line with our staff's personal interactions with Best Buy sales staff across the country, as well.  For example, when shopping for a laptop in 2008, floor sales staff at two separate local Best Buy stores were unable to properly assess laptop graphics performance and were unaware of current mobile graphics card offerings.  

In both cases it took several employees in the computer department to find one that could compared and contrast offered processors in a technically sound manner.  And in both cases, the employees suggested that the DailyTech staffer "apply for the Geek Squad" as they "seem to know a lot about computers."

Of course, these experiences are limited, but based on feedback on YouTube and Facebook it seems we're not the only ones who have encountered this.

The broader question is whether depicting a company in an unfavorable manner -- without using specific logos or brand names -- is illegal.  In this regard Best Buy's legal chances seem poor, given that Verizon Communications, Inc.'s (VZ) successfully defended in court its right to air far more flagrant commercials attacking AT&T, Inc. (T); and the fact that Deutsche Telekom AG's (DTE) T-Mobile USA and Apple, Inc. (AAPL) have both [1][2] aired similar commercials attacking their competitors' products or brands by name.

II. Logo Abuse?

Best Buy also alleges that is abusing its trademarks pertaining to the Geek Squad -- namely, the use of the colors black and/or orange in relation to the terms "geek" or a power button logo. has recently started a new services campaign [GIF] dubbed "Geek On", which shows an orange power button as the 'O' in "ON", next to black or white "GEEK" text (depending on the color of the backdrop).  The campaign pitches support and sales, and the company has been distributing promotional T-shirts as a part of the campaign.

Best Buy's lawyers write:
We recently learn that Newegg is using a stylized GEEK ON design in orange-and-black font with the "O" in "ON" depicted as a power button (the "Geek on Logo") with a new marketing campaign for Newegg's consumer electronics retail services.  We understand Newegg is using this design on its website, its Facebook site, and in connection with promotional items for Newegg's services such as t-shirts.  An illustrative use of the Geek On Logo is attached as Exhibit B.

Given Best Buy's long-standing prior use of the GEEK SQUAD mark, Geek Squad Trade Dress, and Tie and Power Button Design, Best Buy is concerned that Newegg's use of the Geek On Logo is likely to create confusion among consumers and to dilute the distinctive quality of the GEEK SQUAD mark in violation of Best Buy's trademark rights.  Best Buy is particularly concerned because the Geek On Logo features the GEEK-component of Best Buy's GEEK SQUAD mark, is depicted in the same orange-and-black color scheme as Best Buy's Geek Squad Trade Dress, features a power button design that is very similar to the Geek Squad Tie and Power Button Design, and is used to promote Newegg's competing consumer electronics retail services.
Whether anyone would actually "confuse" Best Buy and Newegg, is debatable, but Best Buy may have a bit more of a leg to stand on here.  Apple has in the past brought several similar lawsuits claiming violation of its logo [1][2][3].  Similarly, George Lucas has successfully brought several Star Wars related trademark lawsuits against small firms [1][2].

In other words, regardless of whether its fair or not, legal precedent has shown that marginally related logos and text can be grounds for a successful court case by the trademark originator against the late adopter.

III. What's Next? does not appear to be backing down from either campaign and defiantly posted Best Buy's letter on its Facebook page.

A cease and desist letter is a legal tactic in which one party sends the other a letter formally warning them not to repeat certain actions like stalking.  If they violate the terms, they can face criminal and civil penalties under U.S. law.

Typically, a cease and desist letter is followed by a lawsuit if the addressed party does not comply.  It's now just a waiting game to see if Best Buy backs up its threats with legal muscle.

In the meantime all Best Buy's fuss is generating loads of free publicity for's commercial, which has already gathered 413,000+ views.

Best Buy sent a similar threat last year to a priest who used the slogan "God Squad" and drove a Volkswagen Beetle painted similar to those used by the Geek Squad.  The company does not appear to have followed up on that threat with any substantial legal action, perhaps because of the backlash that stories about the threat caused. 

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Factual representations are protected?
By nafhan on 6/10/2011 1:53:15 PM , Rating: 3
So, if Newegg can show that this IS what BB employees are like, they're in the clear, right? :) I'm pretty sure I've seen that exact situation in the commercial play out more than once (not quite so blatantly, though).

My personal favorite BB stories:
--Overheard a BB employee (doing a fairly good job) trying to explain the difference between a RJ11 phone cable and an RJ45 ethernet cable in order to help the the customer understand why he couldn't just plug his Xbox straight into the phone line.
--BB employee tried to sell me a crappy GPU with a huge frame buffer. He shut up and got a confused look on his face as soon as I mentioned memory bandwidth.

By erple2 on 6/10/2011 3:11:40 PM , Rating: 2
BB employee tried to sell me a crappy GPU with a huge frame buffer

When that happens, I make a reference to "Smart". The reference is usually wasted on them, however, which saddens me. Shel, you're a genius.

RE: Factual representations are protected?
By rudolphna on 6/10/2011 3:35:20 PM , Rating: 3
Once again, as a Best Buy PC employee, I can definitely empathize with this. I've lost count of the number of times I've corrected my coworkers for this very thing.

I had to explain that even though it had a huge amount of Video Memory, it still only had 80 Stream Processors... Versus the 5770 which has 1GB (GDDR5, vs the DDR2 on the 4350), but 320SP.

By nafhan on 6/10/2011 4:14:16 PM , Rating: 2
My apologies if I made it sound like I thought all BB employees are morons... Some of them are, for sure, but not all.

RE: Factual representations are protected?
By Gondor on 6/11/2011 12:02:13 PM , Rating: 1
I had to explain that even though it had a huge amount of Video Memory, it still only had 80 Stream Processors... Versus the 5770 which has 1GB (GDDR5, vs the DDR2 on the 4350), but 320SP.

5770 has 800 (eight hundred) SPs.

I believe you just made a case in point for the author of this article.

By rudolphna on 6/12/2011 6:32:06 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, for some reason I was thinking of the 4670 I had before- I have two 5770s in Crossfire, you'd think I would remember. Brainfart for sure on that one.

By Rike on 6/10/2011 5:26:03 PM , Rating: 2
You really can't be successfully sued if you are telling the truth. This is a principal that goes WAY back.

The Zenger case involves different type of parties (publisher/public official), but I think the basic principals are the same. The trick is that Newegg may have to demonstrate their representations are factual.

By Bad-Karma on 6/13/2011 3:50:12 AM , Rating: 3
I can relate to that all too well. I try to avoid shopping there at all cost but sometimes I just can't pass up a good deal, no matter how painful it is. About a year back I picked up a great deal on an open box 400 disc Sony DVD changer at BB. I was pressed for time and (unwisely) decided to grab an optical cables for it and one for a CD changer I already had.

The moment I stopped at the cable shelves a kid popped up as if on cue. He proceeded to lecture me on how Monster's optical cable had "superior" build quality and better " shielding" to protect it from both signal loss and EMI from other cables!

So I attempted to inform him about the difference between electromagnet vs. Photonic theories and why they won't interfere with each other. About a minute into the discourse this kid has a blank look on his face. But as soon as I gave up on him and stopped talking, he launched right back into his "Monster-is-better-because-" spiel.

When he saw that I didn't believe anything coming out of his mouth he got another worker, I think his immediate supervisor, who started in with the exact same BS sales pitch.

My mind just pictured them sitting at a big long table and arguing about putting electrolytes on plants......

Now whenever they walk up to me and ask, "can I help you?" I just reply, "Probably not" and walk on.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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