I've previously argued that Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) deserved more respect as an investment -- but I might have been wrong. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the electronics giant has acquired a bad habit of suing the very same geeks who represent some of its best customers.
According to the WSJ, Best Buy's taken legal action on those who've used the word "geek" in their marketing lingo. The electronics chain claims that such efforts infringe on its "Geek Squad" trademark. Online company Newegg.com is just the latest target; over the past few years, Best Buy's pursued businesses with names or services like Rent a Geek, Geek Rescue, Speak With a Geek, and Geek Housecalls.
Any self-respecting geek knows that Best Buy didn't invent the word. It's a commonly recognized and respected term for the technologically savvy. Most geeks are proud to be geeks, and certainly don't want to be sued for trumpeting their credentials. And even non-geeks need a little geek help from time to time.
The parade of lawsuits also reflect badly on Best Buy as an investment. One of the folks interviewed in the article described the retailer's actions as "a bit desperate." No kidding.
It's never a good sign when any company or industry starts hurling lawsuits at the very folks they'd like to attract as customers. The music industry's litigious ways made me think poorly of investments in music companies, or businesses whose music units took part in the RIAA, like Warner Music (NYSE: WMG ) and Sony (NYSE: SNE ) . Companies should evolve, not litigate.
When covering Best Buy's most recent quarter, I noted that the retailer looks better than electronics retailers like Conn's (Nasdaq: CONN ) and RadioShack (NYSE: RSH ) . Several Foolish readers disagreed, pointing to its formidable online competition from rivals like Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) . My fellow Fool Rick Munarriz subsequently argued that maybe Best Buy is more value trap than value stock.
Needless to say, I'm beginning to wonder whether I spoke too soon. Heavy-handed corporate lawsuits like the geek-oriented ones the WSJ described do strike me as desperate, if not downright sad. Maybe Best Buy's better days are behind it. If it's attacking the geeks, it's kind of attacking its own peeps. That's never a smart idea.
Sound off on geek persecution, corporate-style, in the comments box below, or keep an eye on Best Buy by adding it to your watchlist.