Don't Mess With Texas… Or, Well, Don't Use That Slogan As A Book Title Or Texas Will Sue

from the moron-in-a-hurry dept

You’ve probably heard the phrase “don’t mess with texas.” It’s pretty widely known in general, but what you might not know is that the phrase is actually trademarked by the Texas Department of Transportation as a part of an anti-litter campaign. I had no idea. Anyway, the state is quite upset that anyone might think of the phrase in any context other than combating litter. Stephen S. Power alerts us to the news that the state has sued over a romance novel with the phrase as its title. And they’re going all in. They’ve sued the publisher of the book, Hachette Book Group, and the author, Christie Craig, and they’re even going after Barnes & Noble for daring to stock the book.

Amazingly, the state doesn’t even seem to want to hide the fact that it’s flat out abusing trademark law. Remember, trademark law is only supposed to prevent confusion and no “moron in a hurry” is going to think that the Texas Department of Transportation has put out a bodice ripper novel. And rather than allege that, the state seems to just be saying that it doesn’t like sex:

“The book,” TxDOT’s suit says, “contains numerous graphic references to sexual acts, states of sexual arousal, etc.”

They’re afraid that this will harm their ability to keep the streets clean of litter. I’m not quite sure how. Of course, if you look, it appears that TxDOT does, in fact, have a number of federal registered trademarks on the phrase. I went through them all and not a single one appears to be for books, however. There are things like clothing, signs, luggage tags, beverage holders, garbage bags, “plastic squeeze flashlights,” etc. But nothing about books.

Here’s hoping the defendants do decide to “mess with Texas” and teach them a little something about trademark law.

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Comments on “Don't Mess With Texas… Or, Well, Don't Use That Slogan As A Book Title Or Texas Will Sue”

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MrWilson says:

Re: Re:

That’s still a “moron in a hurry” scenario.

If you asked a “moron in a hurry” if he thought the Texas DOT would publish or support the publishing of a bodice-ripper novel that has nothing to do with transportation, regardless of what the title of the novel was, he’d like say, “no.”

You could call it, “The Texas Department of Transportation Officially Endorses this Romance Novel” and the “moron in a hurry” would probably have a good suspicion that the title was disingenuous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Trademark abandonment

There are things like clothing, signs, luggage tags, beverage holders, garbage bags, “plastic squeeze flashlights,”

And Texas DOT has been actively selling ?clothing, signs, luggage tags, beverage holders, garbage bags, ?plastic squeeze flashlights?? during the past three years?

A mark shall be deemed to be ?abandoned? if either of the following occurs:

(1) When its use has been discontinued with intent not to resume such use. Intent not to resume may be inferred from circumstances. Nonuse for 3 consecutive years shall be prima facie evidence of abandonment. ?Use? of a mark means the bona fide use of such mark made in the ordinary course of trade, and not made merely to reserve a right in a mark.

Or Texas DOT has just tried ?merely to reserve a right in a mark? for those ?clothing, signs, luggage tags, beverage holders, garbage bags, ?plastic squeeze flashlights??.

BeachBumCowboy (profile) says:

Re: Trademark abandonment

“And Texas DOT has been actively selling ?clothing, signs, luggage tags, beverage holders, garbage bags, ?plastic squeeze flashlights?? during the past three years?”

Actually. Yes they do. They sell that stuff all the time as part of their anti-litter campaign with the “Don’t Mess with Texas” logo on it.

Benny6Toes (profile) says:

moron in a hurry

I’ll do you one better and posit that no moron in a hurry even knows that the phrase has anything to do with an anti-litter campaign. Seriously. I’ve been called a moron on numerous occasions, and I always seem to be rushing, and I had no idea what the phrase was about until I looked it up a few years back after reaching the end of the interwebs.

Ninja (profile) says:

Reversal.. Texan?

Anyway, I thought of Texas as more sexually liberal with manly men but they don’t like sexually suggestive books? LA should transfer its gay parade, Texas seems a better place for it 😉

Now seriously, how twisted can this IP (trademark/copyrights) become… Just add some fundamentalist moralism to it and what the fuck it’s the cataclysm.

Anonymous Coward says:

Don't Mess with Texas: The Story Behind the Legend [Hardcover]

Hopefully this doesn’t get filtered as spam. A Google search on the phrase turned up this other book from Amazon. I think this is relevant to the story here…

Amazon.Com: Don’t Mess with Texas: The Story Behind the Legend [Hardcover]

Tim McClure (Author)
Roy Spence (Author)

List Price: $24.95
Price: $18.96 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25.
You Save: $5.99 (24%)

Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.

Only 2 left in stock–order soon (more on the way).

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In December 1985, a bumper sticker bearing the words ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ began appearing on pickup trucks across the Lone Star State. There was no explanation, no sponsor, just those four words and a small red, white, and blue Texas flag. Fast-forward 20 years to 2006. Today, the longest-running public service campaign in Texas is also the most successful anti-litter campaign in history. Until now, only a handful of people knew the true stories behind the legend: the stories of the famous commercials and the stories about dozens of the biggest and brightest Texas stars who donated their time and considerable talents to help Texas reduce litter on its highways by an astonishing 72 percent.

About the Author

Tim McClure is a brand architect, author, filmmaker, and
legend builder. He is one of the founders of GSD&M, one of America’s most successful advertising agencies. He is also the creator of the legendary “Don’t Mess With Texas” slogan and antilitter campaign.

Roy Spence is also a founder of GSD&M. He has been profiled in USA Today, recognized as an “Agency Innovator” by Advertising Age, and named “Adman of the Century” by Texas Monthly magazine.

Is Texas DOT behind this Don’t Mess With Texas book?


Anonymous Coward says:

Complaint [PDF]

TxDOT v Craig complaint

? Count I – Trademark Infringement
[15 U.S.C. ? 1114]

? Count II – Blurring
[15 U.S.C. ? 1125(c)]

? Count III – Dilution (Tarnishment)
[15 U.S.C. ? 1125(c)]

? Count IV – Dilution (Texas State Law)
[Section 16.29 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code.]

? Count V – Unfair Competition
[15 U.S.C. ? 1125]

? Count VI – Request for Temporary Restraining Order, and Temporary and Permanent Injunctive Relief
[15 U.S.C. ?? 1116(a) and 1125(c)(1)]

Anonymous Coward says:

Aug 24 Update: Author can 'mess with Texas' all she wants

?Judge: Author can ‘mess with Texas’ all she wants?, by Christopher Calnan, Staff writer, Austin Business Journal, Wed, Aug 24, 2011:

A federal judge in Austin has denied the Texas Department of Transportation?s request for a restraining order in a trademark infringement case regarding a romance novel entitled ?Don?t Mess With Texas.?

Following a Monday hearing, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks denied TxDOT?s request.


(Via Houston Press Hair Balls blog.)

H enry Richard Mears (user link) says:


First off, Lets think about this, if Texas didn’t have a Lawsuite we wouldn’t have heard about it. Is this lady from Texas, I am, “Ole Elpaso”, oops just “Elpaso”, sorry!! That, I’m afraid, is trademark infringment, and I could get sued if I used it in the title of something I wrote! and I love Ole Elpaso’s Taco fixings! but I di-gress, Although, they are right about one thing, trademark laws were designed to prevent confusion, for who registered the slogans first. And every Texan owns the “Slogan” Don’t Mess with Texas. Seriosly, I’ve lived in upstate New York most of my life,But I’m still a Texan! I had no Idea that thats what the slogan ment, So here in New York, when they find out I’m from Elpaso Texas, I say Don’t Mess with Me! or I’ll get the rope! LOL. Hmmmm I wonder if Ole Elpaso trademarked “New York City, Get the Rope”! No that would be “Owning the Slogan” I think. I also think that if the TxDOT was behind the “Documentary book” it would be trademarked,don’t Yall!!Reading through, You’ve got the right Idea, But I’ll Boycott the book, There is enough smutt, and i love smutt, on the internet, and isn’t it time to stop killing trees for no good reason! Cause this book isn’t a gooden!Oh I’m sure the author has a great imagination, and just seeing the cover i think It should be called “Come, Mess With Texas”! No puns intended, or is it!

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