Best Buy Prevails in Geek Squad Trademark Suit

Best Buy sued Andrew Clayton last year and reached a settlement under which Clayton was required to cease infringing on the Geek Squad trademark-but the electronics retailer took him back to court after discovering continued use of the brand.

A Michigan man that ran a business called Geek Squad Computer Repair Service-but isn't associated with Richfield-based Best Buy Company, Inc.-recently was ordered to disconnect several phone numbers tied to his business and stop infringing on the Geek Squad trademark.

Best Buy, which owns and operates a 24-hour computer support service program under the Geek Squad brand, sued Andrew Clayton in January 2010. The electronics retailer accused Clayton-who owns and operates a computer repair business in Troy, Michigan-of infringing on its trademark.

The suit identified a phone number listed in multiple directories alongside the Geek Squad name. Best Buy said it received complaints from a customer who believed she had purchased services from the company's Geek Squad service when in fact Clayton's business is not associated with Best Buy. Best Buy sent Clayton letters requesting that he cease use of the Geek Squad trademark, and it claimed to have lost more than $75,000 as a result of confusion among customers.

The two parties reached an agreement in April 2010, settling the case. Clayton agreed to stop using the Geek Squad trademark and variations of the name. He also agreed to change his company's phone number, to redirect customers looking for Best Buy's Geek Squad to the Best Buy service, and to remove directory listings that used the trademark.

But in September 2010, Best Buy filed to reopen the case, claiming that new Internet ads surfaced featuring the Geek Squad Computer Repair name and a new phone number. Calls to the new number reached Clayton, and calls to the number he agreed to disconnect led to an answering machine message stating that his number had changed-allowing him to continue to benefit from use of the Geek Squad trademark through multiple phone numbers, according to Best Buy.

Clayton responded in court documents, stating that he was working to take down the few remaining ads that may exist, and claiming that it was an abuse of Best Buy's lawyers' power to reopen the case.

But U.S. District Court Judge Joan Ericksen issued an order following a hearing in late May, requiring Clayton to disconnect three phone numbers by June 8-and prohibiting him from using call forwarding or recorded messages at the disconnected lines. The order also upheld all other provisions laid out in the April agreement.

Best Buy is Minnesota's third-largest public company based on revenue from its 2010 fiscal year, which totaled $49.7 billion. The company reported revenue of $50.3 billion in its most recently completed fiscal year.