Best Buy Thinks It Owns the Word ‘Geek’


In this day and age, when Palin family members trademark themselves, corporations want to own words, particularly, words used for marketing purposes. So, while “geek” used to be just a techy offshoot of “nerd,” something you could call the smartest guy in your computer class, now it’s a word that can get you sued by Best Buy if you use it in a public way. The Wall Street Journal reports that was recently threatened with a cease and desist after Best Buy (whose tech support service goes by the name “Geek Squad”) caught wind of its ad slogan: “Geek on.” But isn’t “geek” a word that should be fair game to computer businesses, just like “cool” is to air-conditioner purveyors?

Newegg, for their part, posted the cease and desist on Facebook, garnering attention from numerous “geeks” angry at Best Buy for pushing around a smaller competitor over a word that’s totally commonplace in the industry. Meanwhile, Best Buy clarifies that “It is not just the word geek, it is the word geek with orange and black coloration” that puts Newegg over the line. (Related or not: Newegg recently also made fun of Best Buy employees in a TV ad, depicting them as “slovenly and uninformed.”)

In any case, the Journal points out that there have been a whole bunch of “geek-themed trademarks” disputed by Best Buy in the past decade, “including Rent a Geek, Geek Rescue and Speak With A Geek.” The company even got pushy with a Wisconsin priest who had “God Squad” on his Volkswagen beetle, in a logo design reminiscent of Best Buy’s.

Best Buy says the dispute was resolved amicably after the company offered to remove the logo from the priest’s car and pay his legal fees.

Yeesh. But! Best Buy has apparently “relented in letting school chess clubs call themselves geek squads.”

How generous. And/or geeky.

Now That Everyone Wants to Be a Geek, Lawyers Have Been Called [WSJ]