Just how far down the road does the Texas Dept. of Transportation want to take its court battle with a Houston romance novelist, her publisher, and a bookstore? Yesterday a federal judge in Austin denied TxDOT’s request for a restraining order that would have required all 35,000 copies of a new book to be recalled from distributors and destroyed — and be given a new title. Christie Craig’s shirtless-hunk-filled novel, Don’t Mess with Texas, was released on Tuesday. TxDOT complained that the book used the agency’s trademarked slogan for a statewide anti-littering campaign as its title without permission. But under questioning, TxDOT’s attorneys had conceded that none of the trademark registrations for the phrase “Don’t Mess with Texas” specifically covers books. In his decision, Judge Sam Sparks found that point significant, and noted that the costs of recalling the book would likely be very high.
But Judge Sparks appears to be somewhat skeptical of the book’s potential mass appeal. “Finally, in light of the questionable popularity of Defendants’ book, any harm TxDOT might suffer is merely speculative,” he writes in his opinion. Has he even read the thing? An attorney for the defendants tells the Austin Business Journal he doesn’t know whether TxDOT will proceed with the lawsuit.