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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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RE: wow
By semiconshawn on 6/12/2011 12:39:07 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Now there is a misleading trend that people think digital connections either work or they don't - that is false. Digital transmissions are less susceptible to the interference that affected analog cables, but if the signal is not strong enough or is otherwise degraded, it would result in you seeing blocky artifacts in the video or pops and crackles in the audio (aka digital jitter).


Yeah if you get one that causes artifacts its bad. Digital connections on your av equipment ARE pretty much go or no go. Stop trying to justifiy being ripped of for $50 bucks. I work with digital coax and fiber connections all day everyday at work. If it its built correctly it will work. If its not take it back.


RE: wow
By EricMartello on 6/12/11, Rating: -1
RE: wow
By Bad-Karma on 6/13/2011 4:15:04 AM , Rating: 3
What's that old saying....something about "a fool and his money...."


RE: wow
By EricMartello on 6/13/11, Rating: -1
RE: wow
By Smilin on 6/13/2011 10:19:49 AM , Rating: 2
A car analogy won't save you.

There is no image difference between a cheap one and an expensive one. I have yet to see an HDMI cable so cheap that it literally breaks when using it so buying an expensive one is a waste of money that could be spent elsewhere.


RE: wow
By EricMartello on 6/13/11, Rating: 0
RE: wow
By Argon18 on 6/16/2011 5:41:29 PM , Rating: 2
Wrong. Even with your kuro, a crap $6 hdmi cable will perform exactly the same as a $100 hdmi cable. hdmi is 100% digital. the video and the audio. all digital. does a $100 usb cable perform better than a $6 USB cable? How about a $100 Ethernet cable. Does it perform better than a $6 Ethernet cable? Of course not. Likewise, a $6 HDMI cable performs exactly the same as a $100 hdmi cable.

If you want to talk about analog cables, that is an entirely different story, and spending a bit more on quality cables with better shielding and construction WILL get you an appreciable gain in audio and video quality over a $6 crap cable.


RE: wow
By Farfignewton on 6/13/2011 10:28:33 AM , Rating: 4
I haven't driven a BMW 7 series and don't even know what they look like off the top of my head, but I'd be willing to bet they accelerate better, go faster, and have a ton more features than a Metro which will win on mpg only.

Oh, and lets not forget the status symbol part. You're probably not planning on washing your hdmi cables in the driveway to show off to your neighbors.


RE: wow
By Bad-Karma on 6/22/2011 2:09:58 PM , Rating: 1
What your missing is how much extra your paying for something that doesn't matter.

A digital signal requires a discreet amount of bandwidth to pass it's data, no-more,no-less. Any less bandwidth and the signal can not pass. If you experience pixelation then you've dropped below the minimum bandwidth threshold. However, a digital signal can't utilize any extra bandwidth (the signal doesn't get any better).

Your talking about buying an olympic class swimming pool so you can give your cat a bath.

Now to address your little rant:

I don't think anyone could ever accuse me of being a "cheapass",far from it. And why would it make me mad that someone could buy a 7 series? I have no use for one. My daily driver is a 2011 F-350 crew 4x4 6.7 LB dually. I also have a customized 03 F-550 that turns almost 800HP for when we want to travel with my 34ft 5th wheel. And my wife enjoys her 07 XJ8R to and from work each morning. Oh and we bought them not only because of the added comfort, but because we can.

So STFU you little snot nosed brat.


RE: wow
By Wiggy Mcshades on 6/13/2011 3:28:31 PM , Rating: 1
With a digital signal to actually be corrupted enough to cause a visual artifact it would have to be running out of spec. Modern serial communication protocols take into account that each bit sent won't always arrive as the correct value. There's a certain number of incorrect transmissions that can happen in a time frame for every protocol that can be properly dealt with. You can't get an artifact or pop unless the number of errors exceeds this amount set by who ever designed the communication protocol. So either the cable isn't made to spec or it is. If the cable is damaged or run in an environment that exceeds its operating specifications then you will probably be in a situation where there is noticeable loss in the quality of what ever media is being transmitted. Other than those two cases, if the cable is made to spec it will act the same as all other cables made to spec.


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