Always remember the Alamo – at least when it comes to branding. If you don’t, the state of Texas may come after you for trademark infringement.
That’s what happened after two beer manufacturers took their trademark dispute to federal court. Alamo Beer sued Old 300 Brewing for trademark infringement claiming Old 300’s use of the outline of the Alamo infringed on its federal trademark registration. While these two groups battled it out, they received an unexpected challenge. The state of Texas stepped in and asserted its own trademark rights to the Alamo. A federal judge agreed with Texas and now both beer companies will need a license from the Texas General Land Office to continue use of the image of the Alamo.
Although the Alamo is well known and a recognized part of Texas history, it seems that Texas has only recently decided to protect and enforce the Alamo brand, having filed nearly 20 trademark applications on “The Alamo” in various categories over the last couple of years. Alamo Beer on the other hand, originally filed a trademark application on Alamo in the category of beer in 1994. After showing use in commerce of the mark in 1997, the beer manufacturer received a trademark registration.
Despite its trademark registration however, the judge ruled that the Alamo mark is famous and the State has senior rights to the mark, having used it long before 1994 when Alamo Beer filed its trademark application. All is not lost for Alamo Beer though. After working out a license with the state, it will be able to continue using the Alamo outline.
With Texas stepping up its defense of the Alamo, does this mean that other groups’ brands may now be in jeopardy? Alamo Beer is not the only group that has been using the Alamo as branding inspiration. Among others, there’s Alamo Car Rental, the Valero Alamo Bowl, and Alamo Fireworks. Will Texas start going after all these groups?
Probably not. The State’s main contention seems to be with groups using the outline of the Alamo and not so much with the name. Texas uses the outline logo on its officially branded products that it sells in the Alamo gift shop and wants to prevent consumers from being confused as to the source of official goods. It seems then the name might be fair game, but don’t mess with the Alamo’s silhouette.
Trademark issues can arise in all sorts of unexpected ways, including the silhouette or a famous building. If you have questions about the trademark process, please contact the trademark attorneys at Trademark Access. Let our experience protect your valuable brand.