Geeks squabble over right to be geeks

Newegg smears Best Buy's cease and desist letter over the use of the word "geek" in its marketing materials.

Best Buy Co. Inc. may have a little egg on its figurative face thanks to its recent spat with fellow tech retailer Newegg Inc. regarding the use of the word "geek." The retail giant was rankled by Newegg’s use of a power button coupled with its “Geek On” slogan, which Best Buy said violated its trademarked logos for its Geek Squad service.

Best Buy also took umbrage at a Newegg television ad featuring a salesperson clad in Best Buy's traditional blue shirt working in a shop reminiscent of a Best Buy store who is “depicted as being slovenly and uninformed about computer products,” and was contrasted by Newegg employees who are “portrayed as ‘experts.’”

On May 26, Best Buy sent Newegg a cease and desist letter, which Newegg posted on its Facebook page, demanding that its competitor:

  1. Promptly and permanently cease all use of the Geek On Logo and any other mark combining the word “GEEK” with an orange color scheme or power button design; and
  2. Promptly and permanently cease all use of the advertising in question as well as any other advertising purporting to show Best Buy employees.

Last week, Newegg responded to Best Buy’s letter (the reply also is posted on its Facebook page), noting that it “respectfully” disagrees with the assertion that the “Geek On” promotions violate any trademark infringement, and that Best Buy has no exclusive right to the word “geek” nor a general, unstylized computer power button icon. Additionally, it contends the allegation that the TV ad constitutes any trade disparagement.

“It is a comedic, tongue-in-cheek take on a commonly understood customer experience, and does not name, identify or focus on any particular retailer, and we believe the actor portraying the salesperson is not 'slovenly' in any way,” Newegg wrote in its response, adding that it believes any “reasonable viewer” would agree with their assessment.

To top things off, the online computer retailer appeared to fling one final egg at Best Buy in the letter, stating that it didn’t want to offend any Best Buy employees, so it will now include the following disclaimer with the advertisement:

“THIS ADVERTISEMENT PHOTOPLAY IS A WORK OF FICTION. ANY SIMILARITY TO REAL PERSONS (LIVING OR DEAD), BUSINESS ESTABLISHMENTS, PLACES, EVENTS, OR OTHER MATERIAL IS COINCIDENTAL AND UNINTENTIONAL. IT IS SOLELY INTENDED TO PARODY AND DRAW ATTENTION TO ANY BUSINESS ESTABLISHMENTS (BUT NONE IN PARTICULAR) THAT PROVIDE POOR CUSTOMER SERVICE, AND NO INFERENCES SHOULD BE DRAWN ABOUT THE IDENTITY, AFFILIATION OR LOCATION OF ANY PARTIES OR BUSINESSES DEPICTED. NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS COMMERCIAL.”

Contributing Author

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