For those who read this weblog religiously ...

This weblog doesn't have a regular religious column, and doesn't intend to start one now. But every so often the Kats are concerned with religious topics -- two of which are mentioned here.

Several readers have sent links to this story about giant electronics retailer Best Buy, which is threatening to sue Fond du Lac (Wisconsin) priest Reverend Luke Strand. The bone of contention here is Reverend Strand's "God Squad" Volkswagen Beetle which, says Best Buy, sports a logo on the clergyman's Volkswagen Beetle which is identical to its own "Geek Squad" design. Reverend Strand has stopped using the logo, following receipt of a cease-and-desist order. As usual, the news reports can't make up their minds if this is a copyright matter or a trade mark dispute.

"Geek Squad" is a Best Buy subsidiary which sells computer-related services to customers. It's known for its use of a black Volkswagen Beetle with a catchy sticker logo on its front door. Said a spokesman for the church: "They feel that the shape and the font of the logo and the fact that it's on the Volkswagen bug causes confusion with their Geek Squad", adding that the minister had "driven the 'God Squad' around Fond du Lac for a "number of years" as a "creative way to bring God to the streets." The IPKat thinks he has just seen the light, recalling that his own car has a Rev counter ...

The second story concerns Richard Taylor (joint UK head of patents in law firm DLA Piper's Intellectual Property and Technology Group and, for his sins, the IP/IT columnist for the famously unread Law Society Gazette). Richard confesses that, in his spare time, as is appropriate for someone with an interest in trade marks, he has an interest in art and symbolism. He explains:
"A few years ago I wrote a book on symbolism and imagery in churches, called How To Read A Church. The book inspired a BBC TV series, called "Churches: How To Read Them", which I wrote and am presenting. The series starts next Wednesday, 1 September, 8.30pm on BBC4. It consists of six episodes, so running on Wednesdays through September and the first couple of weeks of October. Here's the trailer, which is quite fun".
The IPKat, who understands that the publicity folk are making a lot of the "IP specialist-turned-presenter thing", is sure that readers will find this quite in-spire-ing.
For those who read this weblog religiously ... For those who read this weblog religiously ... Reviewed by Jeremy on Friday, August 27, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. I suppose in the US there may be a trade in religious assistance and advice but apart from weddings in the Church of England, ministers of religion do not act in the course of trade in England, but that would not prevent the application of copyright law if the squad and oval counts as a substantail part of an original work in whihch Best Buy could trace their title to the copyright. Heaven forfend

  2. I recall that shortly after the UK police introduced "Panda" cars [generally a Morris 1000 with an illuminated sign on the roof saying "POLICE"], an enterprising jeweller got some free publicity by modifying his own Morris 1000 in the same way to advertise his own name: "CROOKS". The police were not amused!

  3. Taking it from the TM vantage, it seems absurd to police a symbol of goodwill in a manner likely to hurt that very goodwill you are supposed to be protecting. A discrete and affable phone call and gentle follow-up confirmation letter would have obtained the client's goal without the negative publicity generated by a cease and desist order.

    From the US copyright vantage, the counterargument might be: this is a noncommercial parodic use and thus allowed.

    Also--what does VW say about Best Buy using ITS intellectual property? Sure hope they got a license...


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