Best Buy Handing Out C&D Letters for Christmas

Apparently Best Buy didn’t think our blue polo shirts (with a yellow price tag reading “Improv Everywhere”) were quite as funny as we did. They sent a Cease and Desist letter to both us and our friends at Neighborhoodies who were selling the shirts. Neighborhoodies couldn’t afford to have their entire site taken down (as was threatened) during their busiest month of the year, so they pulled the shirts. We weren’t making any commission on the shirts ourselves (in order to have them be as cheap as possible), but it was a shame to see such a cool shirt go. We figured Best Buy was probably not in the right legally, but did not want to deal with the hassle of legal fees to prove our point.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. Today, Best Buy sent a C&D to our friend Scott Beale over at laughingsquid.com threatening legal action unless he removes the blog post referencing our shirts! They’re threatening to sue someone for just covering the news story of the shirts!

You can see his original post here: IE Best Buy Blue Polo Shirts
And see the mission that inspired all of this here: Best Buy Mission
Our T-Shirt version of the shirt is still for sale: Best Buy Logo T-Shirt ($5.99)

Other Improv Everywhere Missions in retail stores:
111 Shirtless Men in Abercombie and Fitch
Slow Motion Shopping in Home Depot
Dead Playwright Anton Chekov Speaks at Barnes and Noble
Hijacking Listening Stations at Virgin Megastore
Creating a Time Warp in Starbucks

UPDATE: Best Buy Apologizes to Laughing Squid!
UPDATE: Minneapolis local TV news covers the story!

Check out our C&D letter after the jump.

best buy cease and desist improv everywhere

best buy cease and desist improv everywhere

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comments

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52 Responses to Best Buy Handing Out C&D Letters for Christmas

  1. Jake says:

    Don’t submit to them! That’s what they WANT you to do! You’re better than them!

  2. misterhaan says:

    My limited understanding of trademarks says Best Buy could lose their exclusive rights to their trademark if they did not enforce it like this. Even if IE’s use of the yellow tag symbol constitutes parody or is otherwise acceptable use, Best Buy still has to err on the side of C&Ding you guys in order to keep their trademark rights. When I first saw that IE/neighborhoodies were selling this shirt I wondered how long until Best Buy found out…

  3. Liza says:

    Look into Tom Forsythe. He did a series of photos including Barbie dolls. Mattel sued him and he won based on his work being a parody. Mattel had to pay for his legal fees & costs, around 1.9 million.

    http://www.tomforsythe.com

  4. james says:

    best buy does not approve

  5. Nathan says:

    Do you have any numbers of how many of the shirts made it out into the wild before the C&D?

  6. Charlie Todd says:

    Nathan,

    I think they sold about 10 of them. So if you own one, you’ve got a pretty rare shirt on your hands.

  7. Jenson says:

    F*ck best buy! I should have sued them when I had the chance!

  8. Teresa says:

    I used to work for Best Buy. It’s one of the shadiest, shittiest companies out there. They treat all of their employees like potential thieves, management trains them to basically lie and cheat the customer, and don’t even get me started on Geek Squad. I will never shop there anymore. It’s such a shame CompUSA and other like stores are going out of business because of this yellow-tag monopoly. It’s the Wal-Mart of the electronics world.

  9. Scott Mercer says:

    Boing Boing just referenced the whole mess!

    Let’s see if Best Buy now sues Boing Boing for daring to talk about this…they even posted the fake logo! Doesn’t BB have a bit of money with which they could defend against a frivolous legal action like this?

    My opinion is that this is absolutely allowed since it is a parody, but IANAL.

  10. Davidk says:

    Another T-shirt riffing off of a corporate theme. I’m hardly confused by this. If Best Buy thinks I’m so stupid, I’ll not shop there. There are plenty of other options for mass-market consumer electronic crap.

  11. James says:

    I’m guessing it crossed over from parody and free publicity into “making money without Best Buy getting a cut” when the shirts went on sale. Really not surprised at the C&D, and if you could get past the lawyers, there are probably plenty of people at Best Buy who were quite amused, fans even, as a result of your performance in their store. Just the lawyers won’t let them tell you that.

  12. Jed says:

    I have dealt with Best Buy and their Geek Squad and have found nothing to complain about. But i agree, the C&D is rdiculus but necessary

  13. Aaron says:

    Here’s an idea, slightly alter the yellow color on the tag, rotate the tag 2 degrees. Oh and some advice for best buy: spread cheeks,remove stick.

  14. J says:

    Ask any lawyer – these C&D letters are completely baseless. They would have to demonstrate serious harm (monetary) to them and profit to you. There is neither. It’s utter crap, and Neighborhoodies is perfectly safe, as is Scott.

    The NOLO press has some fine materials on the subject.

  15. tinkertim says:

    This is completely bogus. Trademark provides a protection to keep company A from selling similar, but lesser quality products under the guise of company B, thereby protecting consumers from knock-offs.

    Trademarks are designed to do just that, protect consumers, it is not a system designed to allow companies to bully others.

    You are not selling anything but a shirt, a parody at that. A parody is (quite) legal, ask the big purple dinosaur named ‘Barney’.

    This is one more reason why I don’t shop there.

  16. Maybe my C&D letter’s winging its way to me now, then. We covered the original stunt and then the shirts. Maybe we’ll get two. That would be cool.

  17. Peasnquiet says:

    I’ve heard that some lawyers, especially those hired by large sh$#@y companies like Best Buy, tend to just send out C&D letters without actually looking into whether there is sound basis for the C&D letters or not. But that’s just hearsay, which may or may not be true.

  18. kennewickman says:

    Hey Best Buy – I know some of your moronic geek squad will be reading this at work, can’t resist watching a car wreck and all, so pass this on – I was going to swing by tomorrow and buy a new 24″ LCD, but man are you all a bunch of jackasses! Luckily you sit right next door to office depot here in my town, so I can still keep my same planned shopping route tomorrow (it’s xmas bonus payday at long last!) and just get it there instead. Cheers!

  19. Tantrum says:

    Bob Barker should sue Best Buy for stealing his Price is Right contestant name tag design.

  20. Liza says:

    Charlie, you have a case against Best Buy based on the fact that your shirt is a Parody. Parody is protected by the First Amendment. Also the use of that shape is coincidental based on the fact that others besides Best Buy use that shape for other purposes beside a logo.

    At least talk to a lawyer and see what your options are. The fight might be worth it.