Best Buy has joined the long line of brands that has trademark enforced its way into some unwanted publicity.
It seems Father Strand, a Wisconsin man who spends his days spreading the word of God, drew the ire of the retailer when he painted his VW Beetle orange, white and black with a Geek Squad-esque logo design and font reading “God Squad.” Best Buy issued a copyright infringement cease and desist letter. Father Strand called the papers.[more]
A local Wisconsin newspaper reports that Father Strand has has already complied with Best Buy’s demand and removed the God Squad decals. “Strand and Holy Family have received calls and e-mails from across the Unites States in support of the God Squad car,” stated the paper.
Best Buy’s move was against a single man with a single trademark infringement driving around a small central Wisconsin town using the mock logo for a decent cause. Likely, the retailer was worried about being associated with a subject as contentious as religion. Yet, as Father Strand noted, many people stopped to talk with him after seeing the car, meaning they clearly were making a distinction.
Indeed, how many would really think a “God Squad” car was an official Best Buy vehicle? If anything, the popularity of the “God Squad” car speaks directly to the strong and positive brand recognition many have for Best Buy’s Geek Squad. Is a single good-faith trademark enforcement worth being known as the company that threatened a simple religious man.
This trademark action is seemingly more common. Recently, Porsche sued Crocs over the “Cayman” name, as if consumers would confuse a comfortable (if fashionably irresponsible) clog with a $80,000 sports SUV. Then Subway became a laughing stock when it attempted to claim the “footlong” nomenclature, ordering a hot dog vendor to cease using the term after 40 years. After outrage, the NFL had to back off its trademark bullying over the New Orleans “Who Dat” cheer. It’s not just private corporations either. Recently, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization lashed out at other ventures that used “for the cure” in their marketing.
While it is understandable that any brand’s first reaction is a defensive maneuver to release cease and desist letters, one wonders if these reactions could be less automatic, taking into account individual circumstances and potential fall-out.