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Don’t Mess With Texas! Okay, maybe you can: the latest silly trademark suit.

“Don’t mess with Texas!”

Who hasn’t heard those words uttered by our last President?  Who knew that it is a term used by Texas’ Department of Transportation (DOT) for their anti-littering campaign?  I certainly did not.  Who also knew that the Texas DOT trademarked that phrase with the USPTO some time ago making the trademarks immune from challenges?  I certainly did not.

Now along comes a new novel by Christie Craig called “Don’t Mess With Texas.”  It appears this is a novel that Texas does not want to be associated with since it is one of those steamy romance novels.  So, like any good steward of taxpayer money, the Texas DOT brought suit claiming trademark infringement of their trademarked phrase.  In the suit they specifically named the author, the publisher, and Barnes & Noble (what?) as defendants and sought an injunction seeking to stop the sale of the book.  In order to make their case, the Texas DOT actually argued that folks would be confused between their anti-littering campaign and a romance novel.  Apparently, the Texas DOT does not think much of the intelligence of their citizens.

Now, word has come down that a Judge has denied the Texas DOT’s quest for an injunction.  This was certainly the right decision.  If nothing else, the book has gotten some free notoriety.  In an effort to prove you can’t mess with them, Texas DOT overstepped their bounds.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Is Richard Dawkins’ book about evolution, “The Greatest Show on Earth”, an infringement of the Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus trademark?

    August 31, 2011
  2. Without examining Ringling Bros. trademarks, it is impossible to say definitively, but my initial reaction is that it would not. The cornerstone question is whether customers are likely to be confused as to the source of goods and services. If they are not, then the trademark holder will probably not prevail. A few years back, Ringling Bros. brought suit against Sephora for using that phrase during a holiday marketing campaign. The case quickly settled, but Sehpora’s attorneys argued that no one would think use of the phrase insinuated endorsement by the circus.

    August 31, 2011

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