Lawsuits, Cowboys, and Free Speech

Song of the Day: Amarillo by Morning by George Strait

Have you ever been sued? Most have not. I’m willing to bet some of you have.

This probably won’t come as a surprise to those who know me, but I have. And it wasn’t for some piddly amount either. Not like my hubby when his psycho ex-girlfriend sued him for the cost of a 12 inch TV and a package of underwear.

Oh no. I was sued for a much bigger sum. Think of a number. Now go bigger. No, bigger. I was sued for a whopping one million dollars. Why was I being sued for a million smackeroos? Let’s just say the Mercedes did not have the right of way.  Unfortunately, the owner didn’t see it that way and my driving came under scrutiny, as I was driving a rental while my Cutlass was in the shop for repairs from a previous accident. Doesn’t look good, does it? At nineteen, there wasn’t much chance the plaintiff would see one cent out of me. I had nothing to my name but a beat-up Oldsmobile worth maybe five grand after a good spit shine. And as the saying goes, you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip. Needless to say, the case was dropped as the owner came under fire for possible insurance fraud.

So why am I talking about crazy litigations? My good friend Christie Craig is being sued by TxDot (Texas Department of Transportation) over the title of her latest humorous romance, Don’t Mess With Texas. Don’t Mess With Texas is also the anti-litter slogan adopted by TxDot many years ago. In a nutshell, TxDot feels that the use of the title violates Texas’s trademark. But that’s not how it all began. TxDot first filed for an injunction to prevent selling Christie’s book, claiming her book would damage Texas’ reputation because her book contains love scenes…between a man and a woman…in a committed relationship…practicing safe sex. When a judge struck down that lawsuit based on the First Amendment of free speech, TxDot slipped in the backdoor citing trademark violations and dilution. Never mind the slogan has been used numerous times in songs and magazines, as well as on clothing.

I love my state. I was born and raised here. We Texans are a rather proud lot. But as a Texan, I’m thoroughly disgusted and embarrassed by what TxDot is trying to do. I’m outraged that in a time of economic strain my tax dollars are wasted on pursuing such a ridiculous lawsuit.

Another writer friend of mine, Suzan Harden, has proposed a write-in campaign to the state’s governor, Gov. Rick Perry (you might have heard of him, :-P) to put an end to such frivolity. Stop by her blog for more information.

Whether you are a Texan or not, whether you are a writer or not, this type of lawsuit affects us all. It’s an attack on our free speech. It’s abuse of our tax dollars. We must make a fuss over this and be heard. Feel free to join me.

Snail Mail: The Honorable Rick Perry, PO Box 12428, Austin, TX 78711-2428
Phone No: (512) 463-2000
Twitter: @GovernorPerry (mention @TxDOT and @Christie_Craig)

Ever been sued? Have an opinion about this lawsuit? I’d love to hear from you.

12 Responses to Lawsuits, Cowboys, and Free Speech

  1. Jeff Salter says:

    Like most rational adults, I think it’s ridiculous for TxDoT to single out an author for litigation when most people in North America have used that slogan in one way or another.
    If anything, they ought to think of it as further free advertising for what was — & is — a VERY effective public service campaign against litering.


  2. jbrayweber says:

    TxDot hasn’t been consistent with filing suit against others who have used the slogan and it is unlikely they will be successful in this one given the cost to pursue it in an unstable economy. Why they feel the need to go after Christie is beyond me. And they fell just short of calling her book pornographic. HAHAHA! Yet butt floss undies are acceptable. Somebody in TxDot is looking like an ass.
    This has been taxing for Christie (who researched laws before using the title) but her sales have not suffered. Thanks TxDot.


  3. Kristen says:

    Ooooooh. I’m just saying, those boys are BEGGING to be messed with.


  4. jbrayweber says:

    Down girl. LOL!


  5. Kristen says:

    Does bring to mind Julia Quinn. Ripped off every movie title and when she ran out used: What happens in London stays in London.

    There might be a lesson to be learned in here somewhere, but I can’t stop looking at the top guy’s smile.

    I wouldn’t hold out a lot of hope from Perry. Only because he’s declining in the polls and would probably rather alienate CC than the crew at TxDot.Go Cain! 🙂

    BTW–thanks for the book idea:
    Trailer-park Tiffany
    Book 1: My broken heart is worth a new package of underpants and a 12″ TV.


  6. jbrayweber says:

    There is no copyright law on titles. It’s the dilution of the trademark they are trying to use as their platform. I doubt Perry would alienate CC, especially since he’s in a favorable position to do the right thing. But I don’t want to go into politics. 😛

    I’ll let my hubby know he’s the inspiration behind your next book. He’ll be thrilled…well, maybe not. LOL!
    Thanks, Kristen!


  7. Tess says:

    I hate all this for Christie…such an unneeded headache!!


  8. jbrayweber says:

    I know, Tess. It shouldn’t happen to any author, much less Christie.


  9. It’s AMAZING to me, that with ALL the other things TxDoT, and other agencies nationwide, could be putting their energies into, they’ll take the time and funding to pursue something so completely ridiculous.

    You know, it’s another one of those times when I realize there’s another reason I love Clint Eastwood. The man says what most of us think, and he says it simply…

    “We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of…”

    and in doing so, ignoring things worth the time and effort.

    Go Christie! Can’t wait to read it!


  10. jbrayweber says:

    There is always someone who the only way they feel important is to bully someone else, especially when they can use an entity to do so. Kind of makes you wonder about the person who decided to pursue this. They read the book before it even became available to the public, filing the first lawsuit on her release date, claiming it would damage the state’s reputation. Gasp! No one here in Texas has sex. Puh-leeze. Someone has inadequacy issues. LOL!

    Thanks, Candi!


  11. Susan M says:

    TxDot is acting like a bully in a lawsuit they have little chance of winning. Yet Christie must still go through the stress and expense of defending herself. Even if she wins, this will cost her big bucks.


  12. jbrayweber says:

    Susan, here’s hoping the publicity the lawsuit generates brings enough sales to offset the expenses.

    I know Susan and I have bought our copies. Have you??


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