So, it seems the big, corporate giants are flexing their magnated muscle once again.
Electronics retailer Best Buy recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to a Fond du Lac, Wis, priest concerning his car. At issue is a black Volkswagon Beetle with a “God Squad” logo on the doors. The logo mimics the corporate logo used by Best Buy’s troubleshooting team Geek Squad, right down to the same oval shape and quirky fonts.
As Bruce Vielmetti says in his Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel article: “The young priest’s attempt to add a little fun to his ministry has apparently run afoul of some corporate lawyers who care more about strictly enforcing trademarks than eternal salvation.”
The comments following this online article are interesting as well. For the most part, they criticize Best Buy for its pettiness—Best Buy, a huge industry with Geek Squad VWs zipping around the country, hassles a lowly priest who’s simply trying to further his mission in Christ.
But wait. Is there more to this?
A commenter named CMH2MKE feels it does: “Priests or not, they ripped off someone else’s design. The priests knew exactly what they were doing. Their statement that the car makes people laugh pretty much says they knew the logo looked like Best Buy’s. They can probably continue to call it the “God Squad” but they need to change the logo. Get creative and design something yourself instead of copying.”
As a graphic designer who specializes with churches, I’ve run into this situation as well. Here’s a common example: A church asks me to use another church’s logo and “simply change the name to our church’s name.”
I have to say no. I have to explain why this is wrong.
When creating a logo, a good graphic designer spends many hours studying the client, the market and the target audience. He or she brainstorms concepts and then designs a final product unique to that client. This work is called intellectual property.
When buying this logo, the client is paying for the designer’s time and expertise. He also is buying rights to be the exclusive owner of that logo. These are called copyrights.
Often, as may be the case with the Fond du Lac priest, violation of copyright laws is simply a lack of understanding. Other times, there is an attitude of exception—that because the church’s work is for the Lord, the law does not apply.
A commenter named Vladimir doesn’t agree: “The clergy need to follow the civil laws of our society just like the rest of us. No exceptions.”
What do you think?