'Geek Power': Best Buy Sends C&D To Newegg Over Marketing Campaign

from the oh-come-on dept

Ah, Best Buy. It's apparently decided to get into the trademark bullying business. The company sent well known online electronics retailer Newegg a cease & desist (shown below) because Newegg is running a marketing campaign called "Geek On" with the "O" in "On" made to look like a "power on" button. Best Buy claims that this is biting off its own Geek Squad logo, which similarly uses a power on button (though, with a tie):
The shirt is Newegg. The callout is Best Buy. And, yes, they look nothing alike. No moron in a hurry is going to be confused here. To make it even more crazy, Best Buy, in true conspiracy theory mode, decides that Newegg is also violating its trademarks because of the following commercial, which pokes fun at Best Buy:
Best Buy takes offense at all this and claims that it's trademark infringement:
The fake Best Buy employee is depicted as being slovenly and uninformed about computer products, in contrast to your employees who are portrayed as "experts."

Your misuse of our valuable trademarks and your negative portrayal of our employees violate our trademark rights and misleads consumers about our services, in violation of federal and state law. While we welcome fair competition, we cannot tolerate unfair competition that disparages our employees, confuses customers and damages our valuable trademarks and the goodwill associated with those marks. We take great pride in our employees and the high quality of customer service they offer and find your company's focus on our employees in this advertising campaign to be particularly offensive.
Of course, there are all sorts of problems with these claims. The logos looking nothing alike, as we've already discussed, but the whole thing about the TV ad is just ridiculous. There's clearly no trademark issue there, as competitors are absolutely allowed to poke fun at each other. No one is going to think that Best Buy "sponsored" the Newegg commercial. There's no consumer confusion at all. More amusingly, the fact that Best Buy thinks that Newegg is portraying Best Buy employees says a lot about how Best Buy views its own employees.

Of course, as many are pointing out, this whole thing has done the exact opposite of what Best Buy probably wanted. First, it's driven a ton of attention to Newegg's commercial, but more importantly, it's made Newegg supporters -- who are generally quite tech savvy -- really dislike Best Buy even more than they may have already. Newegg had posted the C&D letter on its Facebook page, and the response are almost universally anti-Best Buy:
Perhaps next time Best Buy will think about the consequences of sending out such a bogus C&D before all of this happens.




Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    Color Greed

    Best Buy apparently believes it owns the colors black, orange, and blue in the context of the electronics retail industry. Seems a bit greedy for one company, doesn't it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Nick Dynice (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 2:34pm

    Re: Color Greed

    You mean yellow, not orange, right?

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2011 @ 2:38pm

    Ahahaha, the commercial never once said it was supposed to represent Best Buy, but now everyone is going to associate it with them since Best Buy obviously thinks it could only be them and who is going to argue with that? And to top it off they've filed such an obviously bogus lawsuit over it.

    Way to take a little negative marketing and make it a hundred times worse, Best Buy!

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Poster, Jun 10th, 2011 @ 2:49pm

    Re: Re: Color Greed

    Does it matter?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 2:49pm

    Posers!

    Super posers!!!

    That symbol is a reference to an open/closed circuit, and has been associated with the 'power button' for longer than either of them has been at this.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2011 @ 2:51pm

    (You'd) Best Buy (somewhere else)

    "The fake Best Buy employee is depicted as being slovenly and uninformed about computer products, in contrast to your employees who are portrayed as "experts.""

    Um, the young man in the commercial was "slovenly"? Really? In what way?

    Being uninformed is pretty much the default for BB employees, with as many items as there are in the store finding the guy that actually knows about the thing you are asking about is generally quite difficult.

    And the reviews on egghead arent done by the "employees" they are done by the other customers.

     

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  7.  
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    Jason, Jun 10th, 2011 @ 3:00pm

    Re: Color Greed

    I'm guessing it's more the combo of the powerbutton and the word "Geek". On originality, non-genericness, etc, I'd say it fails.

    However, when I read the headline and looked at the photo, I mixed it up and thougt the first image belonged to Best Buy, so....

     

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  8.  
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    crade (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 3:04pm

    If the logos did look sufficiently alike to be a violation, then I'm pretty sure the bb trademark shouldn't be valid since the power icon was around long before bestbuy.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2011 @ 3:05pm

    The idea of Best Buy claiming trademark on the ubiquitous power symbol for a computer has my head reeling. If the people at Best Buy are so computer illiterate that they think that that claim makes any sense whatsoever, then they're obviously not fit to run any sort of computer store.

     

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  10.  
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    Steven (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 3:07pm

    I have the sudden urge to setup a hidden camera and go ask Best Buy employees a lot of questions...

     

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  11.  
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    crade (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 3:08pm

    Re: Re: Color Greed

    lol, I didn't even notice they both had the work "geek" until you mentioned it. They must have trademarked that word too! All I saw was a generic orange power button on one, and a logo made from a power button and a tie on the other.

    Also, cracks me up that they are claiming infringingment because the guy in the video is wearing a blue golf shirt and acting like an idiot. Idiots in blue golf shirts *must* be bestbuy! that is *our* thing, you can't have that in your video!

     

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  12.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 3:33pm

    Re: Re: Color Greed

    Black and orange, the geek squad colors mentioned by Best Buy.

    They haven't laid claim to yellow . . . yet.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2011 @ 3:56pm

    I guess they need to sue Apple, who's been using that as power button for years. They also need to sue a bunch of TV stations, as the entire "Groupe TVA" uses that logo as well.

    Best Buy Fail.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2011 @ 4:02pm

    Re:

    If it would have been red, then Future shop would have sent that letter... but wait, doesn't Walmart of blue shirts too?!

     

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  15.  
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    Jeni (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 4:10pm

    Re:

    Yup. Looks like another monopoly-wanna-be.

    I used to love Best Buy but last year while checking out on their web site using my Best Buy credit card (which I'd used A LOT and always paid off quickly) and they wanted me to add yet another credit card #. That's when I said my good-bye's to Best Buy.

    Haven't tried NewEgg yet, as we don't have one but off I go to find their web site. : )

     

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  16.  
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    Michael (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 4:11pm

    Newegg has been the better business disrupting Best Buy for years now. Best Buy is getting more desperate. Now begins some of the final maneuvers of a dying company, like the Lakers fowling everyone in the last 2 minutes of a basketball game.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2011 @ 4:27pm

    Re: Re:

    Newegg doesn't have stores on a website.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Steven (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 4:29pm

    Re: Re:

    newegg (as far as I know) doesn't have any 'brick and mortar' stores. There is only the web site.

    I use it often and highly recommend it. They don't always have the best price, but the price is always reasonable and the experience excellent in my opinion.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2011 @ 4:42pm

    Any real Geek already knows to order from NewEgg and to not go anywhere near Best Buy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 5:24pm

    Re:

    Best Buy is doing fine. Up until 1998, their stock was always below $10, but has been above $20 ever since, and is now more like $30. They are a long way from death's door. This isn't Blockbuster video.

    Geeks will always know what they want and seek out online deals and reviews from other tech-savvy communities. But impatient people, and people without a clue will still go to Best Buy to buy stuff. And yes, even to get advice from their clueless sales staff.

    Reason being, an "expert" is anyone who the customer perceives to be better informed than they are. For the average geek, a BB rep is an ill-informed, poser douche. For the average American, he is that whiz kid who knows that an Athlon is from AMD and Core is from Intel. Wow! Where did he learn it all?! Which one is better? He'll make up an answer, and the customer won't know the difference.

    The BB reps, as tech illiterate as they may appear to me, can actually help a customer who is completely clueless. I've overheard simple questions like "But can I use a Linksys WiFi card on my Cisco WiFi thingy?" The BB guy will know the answer. Someone on the thread suggested going to BB to videotape how dumb the reps are. Instead, if you really want a laugh, focus the camera on how dumb the customers are.

    But you'll never catch me in there buying anything. I'm an Amazon Prime addict.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    PandaMarketer (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 5:49pm

    Blue Shirts

    I only shop at WorstBuy if they are the only ones that have something a customer needs immediately. And, only if CompUSA doesn't have it.I hate their email policy too. (BB)

    If it's for me, I wait for NewEgg's order to come in. Bare drive doesn't come with a manual or cable (or box)? Excellent, save me some money. I don't need them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    terrybbarton (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 5:51pm

    How about that,

    Best buy thinks they own all trademark rights to

    1. The common power indicator symbol. (Wow I wished I owned that, the revenue from licensing to PC makers must be big. Idiots)

    2. The work "Geek" (I'll Call them idiots again here.)

    3. Clueless computer salesmen in wait for it.. BLUE SHIRTS. (Now I'll call them dumba_____.)

    No wonder I don't buy from Best Buy anymore.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2011 @ 6:10pm

    Now Newegg is giving out 5000 free "Geek On" shirts via facebook and their website. Great promotion, thanks to Best Buy! Striesand in full effect!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 6:45pm

    Re: Re:

    ive never really liked BB and trying to buy system parts from there is just a flat no.

    if i have the time to wait on shipping, newegg is the way i always go...

    unfortunately, its pretty rare that i have the luxury to wait on shipping :(

     

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  25.  
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    Any Mouse (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 6:46pm

    Re: Re:

    And Staples uses red shirts, as well. I don't think anyone truly associates a single color to a single store, these days.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Jeremy7600 (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 7:40pm

    Re:

    And thanks to best buy, I can't even buy one! They've sold out of all the shirts, even the pre-order ones that aren't out for 2 more weeks >

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Bill, Jun 10th, 2011 @ 9:02pm

    Re: Re:

    I think they JUST opened a will call in CA. Newegg has always been an online store. They ship FAST, though. If you order by early Wednesday, chances are you'll get it by Friday! Like their motto: Once you know, you Newegg! So true. I found them about 4 years ago and have gotten them so much word of mouth business. You just can't beat their prices! Their reviews are AWESOME because it's people like you and I doing the reviews. Just find something you're looking for and you'll probably be able to get a better one for the same amount of money you would spend elsewhere. Be sure to hit their mailing list where you get e-mail coupon codes on a daily basis! There's always memory or CPUs or something on sale.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jun 10th, 2011 @ 9:20pm

    Competition

    I drove past a van with this logo just tonight on the way home from work.

    Wonder if its just advertising if if Newegg is going to start competing with GeekSquad. That could be a big deal for WorstTry and cause some execs and lawyers to go ballistic start suing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2011 @ 2:57am

    Anyone who truly knows anything about the world of building computers, gamers who custom build thier machines,for one example wold never buy from a place like BB anyways. The real issue here is not copywright, but the fact that there are too many lawyers working for these giant companies. They have nothing better to do than waste time with these stupid claims. It's like apple suing every company on earth for making touch screen phones. If these companys want to win customers they need to focus more on making their own prodcts and services better, and not trying to make the other companies look worse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    FarmerBob (profile), Jun 11th, 2011 @ 4:08am

    The "O" in the word "ON" is . . .

    . . . an International Public Domain symbol for the designation of On/Off. That is the only thing that could even come close to "tie" the two together, if at all. Sorry BB, it was around long before your Grief Squad.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    hmm (profile), Jun 11th, 2011 @ 4:26am

    well

    >> It's like apple suing every company on earth for making touch screen phones

    Or suing because apparently Apple owns the entire concept of 'rounded corners'.... :)

    First they came for the rounded corners, and I did nothing.
    Then they came for the sharp square corners and I did nothing.
    Then they came for anything with a surface (which was everything).........

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Jeni (profile), Jun 11th, 2011 @ 5:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Once you know, you Newegg!"

    Lol...I like it. Well, they just got yet another customer. Thanks for the suggestions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2011 @ 8:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Actually, in our local Staples they're wearing black polos with acid green accents lately.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Jun 11th, 2011 @ 9:17am

    'Geek Power': Best Buy ...

    "No one is going to think that Best Buy "sponsored" the Newegg commercial."

    I basically agree with the article, and think Best Buy made a huge mistake here.
    However, the above quote shows an equally huge ignorance of the trademark law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    hmm (profile), Jun 11th, 2011 @ 5:59pm

    how about

    I challenge newegg to run a campaign called "best buy from newegg, because once you know, you Newegg!"

    will they step up to the challenge?

    please won't somebody think of the starving best buy lawyers? :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Anonymous IT Geek, Jun 11th, 2011 @ 6:27pm

    I will only use BB during Black Friday or if I already know what I want and they actually have the better price. Have been a loyal Newegg customer for a few years now. And thanks to where I live, I have another local option called Frys Electronics where I can get stuff fast and cheap when needed. Now I may not give BB any of my Christmas shopping money any more!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    anonymous, Jun 11th, 2011 @ 7:48pm

    Come on.

    If you honestly didn't think that they were poking fun at best buy, you are an idiot or have never went into a best buy before. So to all that say I would have never put two and two together, stop lying because you know that is exactly what new egg was doing. Now with that said... I think it is an ingenious ad. A little compettion never hurt anyone. Grow up best buy and take it like the company you are. I am sure in the life span of circut you had to have ran an ad similar to this one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    Jay (profile), Jun 11th, 2011 @ 8:51pm

    Re: Come on.

    They could have been poking fun at Walmart. But Best buy stepped up to the plate to say "we can't believe you would do such a thing!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    Meek Barbarian (profile), Jun 11th, 2011 @ 9:35pm

    Re:

    That sounds like a perfect excuse for a new website dedicated to it. Or at least a YouTube subscription channel!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Tom Landry (profile), Jun 12th, 2011 @ 1:28pm

    The newegg commercial is so accurate that it isn't even funny. While a department head is *probably* knowledgeable about the products they carry, its the low level "associates" that one comes in contact with 99% of the time.

    If your job is to sell goods in your de3partment and your spending 8 hours per day looking at the shit you'd have to actually make a concerted effort NOT to educate yourself on its specifications.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Jun 13th, 2011 @ 7:33am

    Funny thing that

    For all the people whose computers I have worked on, plenty of them have mentioned they went to best buy previously. You know what? Not a single one of them was happy with the service. Not a one.

    Also, for years I have used newegg. Always wonderful. The products get here rather quickly and if anything is ever wrong, returning stuff has never been a problem.
    Less than three Newegg.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    K.E.Mort (profile), Jun 13th, 2011 @ 9:25am

    Intent is obvious

    Sure, they are poking fun at Best Buy. Just like lots of other commercials have done the same to competitors who use something like a blue shirt as part of their image.

    Big freakin deal. No basis for a suit unless they really used a BB type logo somewhere which they didn't on the guy's shirt etc.

    The store actually looks more like the old CompUSA or TigerDirect stores before they changed them around.

    The t-shirt thing...yea ok whatever I've seen that kind of logo used before in the electronics space. This is just BB trying to scare NewEgg into pulling the spots and the shirts with a threat.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2011 @ 10:38am

    Commercial was about Best Buy?

    I live in Canada, and we don't have Best Buy up here. This commercial reminds me of every computer/electronics/office store I've ever visited (For my fellow Canadians, places like Futureshop and Staples Office Depot should come to mind).

    I've worked in these type of environments too. The training is terrible, and employees are only given the "pros" of a product in which they want you to convey to the customer. They never tell you the full specs of the products you're selling.

    I remember on several occasions working at staples needing to look on the tag, or even resorting to Googling information because I really didn't know anything about the product. I guess that's what happens when you're given one day of training :/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
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    dwg, Jun 13th, 2011 @ 2:34pm

    Re: 'Geek Power': Best Buy ...

    Doesn't look like "huge ignorance" to me. Looks right on point. What Gene's alluding to (if I may) is that there are various ways to infringe a trademark, and while the most obvious is just straight-up using someone else's mark on your goods or services, another is creating the appearance of sponsorship of the junior user by the senior user, or an affiliation between the junior and senior users. Here, then, by opining that there's no way any viewer would believe that Best Buy sponsored a commercial that makes it look like a company that employs dumbfucks, Gene raises an important defense to any claim of infringement Best Buy might bring against NewEgg.

    Sound good?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    dwg, Jun 13th, 2011 @ 2:36pm

    Re: Re: 'Geek Power': Best Buy ...

    Whoa. Sorry, both of you--wherever I wrote "Gene," I of course meant "Masnick." Is it possible that when Gene wrote "huge ignorance" he meant "fine understanding?" Happens to us all, once in a while.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    dwg, Jun 13th, 2011 @ 2:39pm

    Re: Come on.

    See, here's the thing: no one suggested that NewEgg isn't poking fun at Best Buy, or that NE's ad is even thinly veiled fun-poking. But you should know that "fun-poking" is a pretty solid defense to trademark infringement. Seriously.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
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    Jon B. (profile), Jun 14th, 2011 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I remember going to an Egghead in Memphis a LONG time ago.

    It's nice that Newegg seems to be treating people well and growing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anon, Jun 16th, 2011 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re: Color Greed

    Black and Orange are for Geek Squad...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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