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Best Buy Goes After Wisconsin Priest

Monday, August 16, 2010 6:15 PM Comments (44)

Father Luke Strand's controversial VW Beetle.

Father Luke Strand of Holy Family Catholic Church in Fond du Lac, Wis. wasn’t looking for attention from corporate America; he simply wanted to promote vocations to the priesthood. Instead, he’s facing a cease-and-desist letter from Minnesota-based electronics retailer Best Buy over his Volkswagen Beetle.

The black VW sports a “God Squad” decal on the door that’s similar in appearance to the logo used by Best Buy’s Geek Squad computer technicians.

Best Buy says that Father Strand’s use of the logo violates its trademarks.

“This was a really difficult thing for us to do because we appreciate what Father Strand is trying to accomplish with his mission,” Paula Baldwin, Best Buy spokesperson, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But at the end of the day, it’s bad precedent to let some groups violate our trademark while pursuing others.”

Father Strand mentioned the cease-and-desist order during the 9:30 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on August 8, but cannot discuss the details of the case.

Then-Deacon Strand, received the car in 2007 from Father Quinn Mann of the Diocese of Green Bay. Not only does the car sport the God Squad logo, but also the websites thinkpriest.org and cyexpeditions.org on the fenders. His license plate reads GODLVYA, and the very front of the Beetle has a white paint stripe to match his priestly collar.

“It stimulates a lot of conversation,” Father Strand told the Fond du Lac Reporter in 2009. “People don’t always know when the right time is to start a conversation about faith questions. The church is alive, young and vibrant. This is a new and creative way to bring the faith I love into everyday life.”

Blogger Brian Osborne, of Geek.com, said that Best Buy has “created a public relations nightmare…the kind that could only come as a result of a company suing a priest,” and that the company is now facing the “backlash” from its decision.

Baldwin said that Best Buy is working with Strand to try to alter the God Squad logo in a way that will still work for him without infringing on the Geek Squad trademark.

“We’re confident that together we’ll come up with a good solution for everyone,” said Baldwin.

Update: Apparently, the “solution” was for Father Strand to remove the decal. This story from TMJ4 in Milwaukee reports that Father Strand removed the decals today.

“I’m not going to make a big huge stink about it,” he told TMJ4 News. “I was surprised to receive the letter, but you know what, we can find other creative ways to spread the Gospel.  Maybe we can come up with an even better God Squad logo.”

My favorite part of the story is Father Strand talking about being mistaken for the Geek Squad. Here’s an excerpt from TMJ4:

“There’s been a number of instances when I’ve walked in to a gas station and they’ve said, ‘You know, we don’t have any computer problems,’ and I say, ‘Hey, you might want to take a second look at the vehicle,’ that they saw it was the God Squad,” said Father Strand.  “People have mistaken me for the Geek Squad.  I don’t think they’ve ever expected for me to come in when I’m in my Roman collar and fix their computer.”

Filed under best buy, cease-and-desist, father luke strand, fond du lac, wisconsin, god squad, priest, vw beetle

About Tim Drake

Tim Drake
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Tim Drake is an award-winning writer and former journalist and radio host with the National Catholic Register/EWTN. He currently serves as New Evangelization Coordinator for the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. He resides with his wife and five children in St. Joseph, Minn.