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Can Best Buy own the word 'geek'?
The big-box retailer says its "Geek Squad" is threatened by another electronics company's geeky ad campaign
A Best Buy "Geek Squad" car: The big-box retailer is threatening legal action against a rival company that uses "geek" in its ads.
A Best Buy "Geek Squad" car: The big-box retailer is threatening legal action against a rival company that uses "geek" in its ads.
CC BY: Burt Lum
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here was a time when the word "geek" conjured unflattering images of bespectacled targets of school bullying, and sad memories of proms never attended. Now, it's a beloved moniker — so much so that Best Buy is threatening legal action against another company for using the word. Here, a brief guide:

What is Best Buy upset about?
The electronics giant is crying foul over a rival electronics retailer's use of the word "geek." Best Buy says that Newegg.com's advertising slogans, "Geek On" and "Take it from a Geek," are too similar to the name of Best Buy's tech support service, "Geek Squad." The visual similarity to the trademarked "Geek Squad" logo also has Best Buy angry. "It is not just the word geek, it is the word geek with orange and black coloration," says a company spokeswoman.

What does Newegg say?
The company responded with a letter arguing that Best Buy does not have exclusive rights to the work "Geek," and that it disagreed with the trademark infringement assertion. But Newegg also says it "did not wish to offend Best Buy," and that in the future, the controversial ads would run with a disclaimer. The legal issues have been good for business, though. The Newegg ad has now been viewed more than half a million times online.

Has Best Buy made threats like this before?
Oh yes. According to federal records, Best Buy has disputed no less than a dozen "geek" trademarks in the last ten years, including Speak With A Geek and Rent a Geek. It also took issue with a Wisconsin priest's use of the word "squad" in a  "God Squad" logo he had on the side of his VW beetle, the same car Best Buy repairman get around in.

Are geeks really so ubiquitous?
"This is getting ridiculous," says Alexandra Petri in The Washington Post. First, Miss USA described herself as both a "huge science geek" and a "huge history geek," and now this. "I knew Geek Culture had taken over, but I had no idea that it had gotten so bad."

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Facebook, Washington Post

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