Before I begin this week’s post, I must issue a disclaimer. I am not a Best Buy fan. I try to stay away from Best Buy unless it actually has the best price on whatever electronic gadget I’m looking to purchase (which is rarely). Seriously, I wonder if its federal trademark registrations for BEST BUY can be canceled on the basis that the mark is merely deceptively misdescriptive?
Anyway, I’m sure all of you have had the misfortune of visiting a Best Buy or, at the very least, seeing a Best Buy commercial on TV. If so, you will undoubtedly be familiar with the yellow price tag logo depicted in the above photo. Best Buy first adopted the price tag logo in 1989 and has been using it throughout its retail stores and website ever since. I don’t think there’s any question that the yellow price tag logo is very well-recognized by the general consuming public and that it’s strongly associated with Best Buy.
Not surprisingly, Best Buy is the owner of various trademark registrations for marks that incorporate the price tag logo, including:
Now, over two decades later, here comes a Montana corporation by the name of UFS Franchising, Inc. (“UFS”). On May 6, 2010, UFS applied to federally register the following trademark for “retail furniture stores”:
According to its website, UFS operates two retail stores in Billings, Montana that purchase and sell used furniture. Both locations have been open for several years, but it appears from the trademark application that the hand tag logo was only recently adopted at the beginning of 2010.
Well, apparently Best Buy didn’t much care for the UFS logo as evidenced by the opposition it filed on the basis of (1) priority and likelihood of confusion, and (2) dilution of a “famous” trademark. Best Buy alleges in its Notice of Opposition that consumers will be deceived into believing that the services offered by UFS are “sponsored, endorsed, or approved by Best Buy” and that the UFS logo “will dilute the distinctive quality” of Best Buy’s registered price tag trademarks.
As soon as I came across this opposition, I got a funny image in my head of some hopelessly confused moron walking around a UFS store for ten minutes with a Best Buy circular in hand. Frustrated, he locates a clerk and asks whether that 60 inch Samsung HD plasma television advertised for $999 is still in stock. “Um, sir, we are a @!#$% used furniture store. See all the furniture? Best Buy is four miles down the road. I swear, they don’t pay me enough to deal with idiots like yourself.”
But UFS is not the first business Best Buy has targeted. In 2010 alone, Best Buy filed oppositions against the following five trademarks, all of which include a hand tag or price tag logo:
I’ll let you decide if Best Buy is being a trademark bully and asserting rights it really doesn’t have. Although I personally find Best Buy’s actions to be unnecessarily aggressive and heavy-handed, I’m open to having my mind changed if a UFS employee confirms to me that customers have actually been searching for the latest Justin Bieber CD or inquiring as to how much it costs for the Geek Squad to assemble a desk.