Don't mess with our slogan, Texas warns copycats

By Marcus Warren in Austin
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH(LONDON)
October 18, 2004, Monday

EVEN more than "Remember The Alamo", "Don't Mess With Texas" sums up the strutting self-confidence of the Lone Star State and the larger-than-life natives who live there.

Anyone who picks a fight with the state which gave us Red Adair and ZZ Top, and is Davy Crockett's final resting place, will live to regret it, the slogan snarls. And so will anyone fool enough to mess with the four-word battle cry, now that Texas is defending its rights to the phrase with all the legal firepower it can muster.

In the past year the state has sent lawyer's letters to up to 30 businesses allegedly breaching its trademark on the slogan. Leading the charge is the state's Department of Transportation, which coined the phrase to protect its roads from litter.

The slogan was "a victim of its own success", one transport official admitted, complaining that fewer and fewer people associated the phrase with its intended message.

"We're very concerned that the value of our slogan has been devalued," said Doris Howdeshell, the director of the department's travel division. "The state of Texas has this brand and we want people to know what it means."

Targets of the crackdown have so far included a "Don't Mess With Texas Women" bumper-sticker and University of Texas T-shirts proclaiming "Don't Mess With Texas Longhorns".

"It's ludicrous that our taxpayers' money goes to fund this sort of activity," said Les Ross, an Austin taxi driver with a sideline in bumper-stickers.