Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain
By: Stacey Purcell
A very interesting thing happened this week in the writing world. I’m interested because I’m from Texas, love Texas, am proud of Texas and think it’s one of the best places in the world. I’m also interested because the author it affected lives in Texas and happens to be a friend of mine.
Christie Craig is a wonderful bestselling author and has just released a book called Don’t Mess With Texas. It’s a fun, sexy, sassy romp and is off to a good start. So, what’s the problem?
The Texas Department of Transportation is suing her, Hatchette, and Barnes and Noble for using their trademarked slogan. Not only are they suing the above, but they want to place a restraining order to have the 35,000 books that are printed to be pulled from the distributors, all the books destroyed and new ones could then be issued with a different title. Yesterday, a spokesperson for TxDot said that she couldn’t comment on this case, but that they had won a similar one in the past.
“I hope to be kicked to death by grasshoppers if it ain’t the truth.” Texas Saying
(English translation = I’m not lying.)
Let’s look at the facts. The slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas” is trademarked. No one can claim otherwise. It was created by Tim Mclure back in the 1980’s as an anti littering campaign. Super stars like Stevie Ray Vaughan did public service announcements playing his guitar and using those words. From that moment on, it spread like wildfire. Popular, doesn’t come close to describing the ads. It even dropped the amount of litter by 72% within the first four years!
Over the next thirty years, we’ve seen it on anything that could be printed on- t-shirts, mugs, key chains, underwear, banners, etc. It has become a part of our language and has been used in many different ways. In short, the people have taken ownership of this brilliant slogan and made it their own.
Who else has dared to use these famous words? Bobby Flay used it on The Food Network when he titled a dish Don’t Mess With Texas BBQ. Many different politicians have used it as part of their campaigns and there’s even an article about Texas lawsuit reform, with this title, instructing us that Governor Rick Perry created a law against frivolous law suits. (Juicy tidbit of irony!)
So why Christie Craig?
TxDot’s suit states, “The book contains numerous graphic references to sexual acts, states of sexual arousal, etc. Since Barnes and Noble sells many TxDot materials with the slogan on them, having a book with that title would cause irreparable harm.” Apparently, if it’s for BBQ, campaigns or law reform then it’s OK, but throw in some sex and it’s taboo! What are they afraid of? Someone might think TxDot wrote a romance? Someone might think Christie’s book is about picking up litter?
My personal opinion is that this is a senseless use of the taxpayers’ money. Our highways are in desperate need of repair and the government is cutting back everywhere. Is this really the best use of our resources? I could give you a legal argument about dilution and confusion of the trademarked slogan, but I don’t have to.
Today, a federal judge, Judge Sam Sparks, denied the request for a restraining order. He cited the First Amendment and that the loss of revenue for the defendants, if they are prevented from selling the book, was too great. He also found that trademark registrations don’t apply to books and titles. Way to go, Judge Sparks!
Stay tuned for further developments………