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Best Buy Flexes Legal Muscles Over "Geek" Word

Business & GovernmentNews
by Desire Athow
, 20 Jun 2011News

US Electronics retailer Best Buy has been slow but steady in the fight to protect its Geek Squad trademark, but some are wondering whether the 800-lbs gorilla of tech retailing sector is not going too far in its war to right some wrongs.

The word "Geek" is a century-old word that used to mean a fool or crazy person but has, since the beginning of the 1980's, been associated with fans of technology in general and computers in particular.

That hasn't prevented a number of geek-related themed companies from being hit over the head in the last decade by Best Buy's legal team including: Geek Housecalls, Rent a Geek, Geek Rescue, Speak with A Geek and, not surprisingly, archrival Newegg.

A recent TV advert (see below) from that company showed a rather ignorant computer salesman being made uncomfortable by customers' questions over laptops, all in very thinly veiled reference (or as Newegg puts it - Parody) to Geek Squad.

Best Buy sent a legal notice - a C&D letter - to Newegg on the 9th of June saying that the company had "infringed on" its "valuable trademark rights".

Not only did Newegg publish the letter on its Facebook page, but it also defends itself by saying that no company, not even Best Buy, owns the exclusive rights to the word geek.

Indeed, Geek.com is a popular technology news website owned by Ziff Davis, while Geeks.com is an online only shop that specialises in end of line and refurbished tech products - and neither have apparently been approached by Best Buy.

Rather, according to WSJ, Best Buy may be viewed as the playground bully who can use its financial clout to muscle out much smaller companies.

In doing so however, not only is Best Buy alienating many neutral observers, but also putting the little guys in a positive light and kickstarting another bout of the "Streisand Effect" (Barbara Streisand's attempt to sue a photographer for snapping her Malibu home inadvertently induced thousands to view the pics online).

With Best Buy now defending its "Geek Squad" trademark even more aggressively, this might encourage even more users to resist Best Buy's assault against copyright infringers; how long, we wonder, before Anonymous and Lulzsec join in the fray?

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