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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 Newegg.com 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 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYk0dQrz3uc&feature=youtu.be" 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 Newegg.com 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.

Newegg.com 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 Newegg.com 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?

Newegg.com 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 Newegg.com'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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Sadly true
By rudolphna on 6/10/2011 3:25:52 PM , Rating: 3
As a Best Buy computer sales employee myself, I have to concede the point that most salespeople know little more about computers than the customers they are trying to help. I'm one of the few that actually knows a significant amount. I'm our resident hardware expert. Have any questions on processors, graphics card, RAM, etc? I'm the only one in the store who can actually explain the differences WELL.

For example, one of my fellow co workers a few months ago was explaining to a customer that the 4350 with 2GB of VRAM (Why? why is there 2GB of VRAM on such a shitty card? PointlesS) was better than the 5870 with 1GB. I told him off later for that.

The problem is there simply aren't that many people out there with high levels of computer knowledge, and of those, the ones that are willing to put up with the BS of working retail in a big corporation that doesn't give a shit about you as an employee are few and far between. Most are good salespeople, but have little knowledge. Though I will say, we are one of the better stores by far. We have our resident hardware expert (again, myself), our resident Linux Expert (colin) our resident mac expert (tyler), resident mainframe expert (Diane, worked for GE for 45 years as a mainframe tech, not that mainframes are really relevant these days), and a few others.

But by and large, they are just normal people who took a few e-learnings and are thrown on the floor. The managers generally know less about the product than even the customer that walks in the door, and all they think about is percentages for certain things.

One way or the other, you have to aknowledge that 95% of people that go into best buy leave happy. Happy with the service they received, and happy with the product we helped them purchase. Obviously Best buy isn't a store for hardcore or even moderately knowledgeable techs. It is place for joe blow who calls USB ports "UBS" ports, and thinks Windows 2000 is hot stuff. These are the same people that don't realize every computer comes with Wireless, and minimum, a DVD burner.

By the way, when you walk in the store next time, cut the guys a bit of slack. We are paid anywhere from $9-$10/hr to deal with customers who generally don't know a CPU from a Harddrive, and often are disagreeable. Anyone who's ever worked retail can empathize with that).

Honestly most of us hate Best Buy as much as you do, but it's a job, and we do it to the best of our abilities. And for prices... Well, I'm obviously not allowed to tell people that that 25' HDMI cable that costs $130 online is $25. Hell, I get it for less than that, but I can't say exactly how much. But that isn't something we control in the store, complain to corporate about that, not the college student who is simply trying to pay for his bills.




RE: Sadly true
By Ramstark on 6/10/2011 6:52:15 PM , Rating: 2
I'll have to say that reading this comment, suddenly, I feel obligued to buy some of those "200 bucks HDMI cables" You know, giving people a job and trying to "technologize" the rest of the world as well as putting its 2 grains of sand for the good name of "Geeks" (Thank you Big Bang Theory for so many girlfriends willing to try a "nerd/now cool geek") So, online stores are cheap, convenient and accurate, but are run by 2 or 3 guys like us, who know better and know how to rip off the Govt. with taxes (cof-cofAmazoncof-cof). So, hell, next time my non-techie clueless friend asks me on the phone "Should I buy the one year tech service?" I will answer "Yes, you definitely do that" xD


RE: Sadly true
By inperfectdarkness on 6/13/2011 2:49:20 AM , Rating: 2
in fairness, it's not limited to BB.

i was an employee during the nardelli era at home depot. knowledge & experience of store staff took a nosedive. before he came along, managers were allowed significant leeway in paying employees. afterwards, it was all micromanaged--and not just in pay-rates.

needless to say, the retirees (former electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc) who worked there for fun, a hobby, or some extra spending $$$ pretty much walked. with them--went all the expertise and DIY knowledge that made home depot so great in the first place.

how much more CEO fail do we have to endure before companies start waking up and realizing that steady-state sales is more important than profit margins?


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