Don't Mess with "Don't Mess with Texas" or "Remember the Alamo"

Don't Mess With Texas. I'm serious, Do. Not. Mess. With.Texas. By this, I mean, the slogan, which was created by an ad agency in the 1980s to go with an anti-littering campaign (protect our highways!), which has become a trademark that Texas guards closely.

In 2011, the Texas Department of Transportation, which owns the mark, sued the author of trashy romance novel titled Don't Mess With Texas. The author ended up paying the State $2,500 and changed the title to Only in Texas. Certainly not the same cache.

This past July, TxDOT went after a Montana company that was selling belt buckles with the iconic slogan on them. Indeed:

Since 2000, Texas transportation officials have contacted more than 100 companies, organizations and individuals about the unauthorized use of the phrase, often in the form of strongly worded cease-and-desist letters that warn violators to either stop using the slogan or obtain licensing for it for a fee.

TxDot told the NYT this is all that is usually needed to stop the offender dead in their tracks.

Also, do not forget to "Remember the Alamo." Again, I'm serious. In 2012, a San Antonio bar owner wanted to sell apparel, etc. with the slogan "I Can't Remember the Alamo." (Let's refrain from grading the bar owner's sense of humor). Well, again, the State put up a fight, and eventually the San Antonio bar owner retreated. Lesson: don't make light of the Alamo.

To be fair, it is a basic rule of trademark law that if you do not protect your trademark, you are putting it at risk of "dilution" or, in other words, allowing other people to use it without legal repercussions. So the state does have an interest there. On the other (proverbial) hand, almost no one associates "Don't Mess With Texas" with an anti-littering campaign (TxDOT's stated reason for protecting the mark). Texas's litigiousness seems to be more about "keeping up appearances" of how Texas likes to see itself than a true worry about people throwing McDonald's bags out of their car windows.

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