Saw ‘Em Off

Is the University of Texas being a bit over-zealous in its efforts to shut down the vendors of “Saw ’em off” t-shirts and the like?  The longhorn logo is undoubtedly a strong mark, but it’s hard to imagine a reasonable jury concluding that the “sawed off” version is likely to confuse anyone, especially in football-mad Texas.  There is a use-it-or-lose-it mentality to lots of trademark law, but that logic shouldn’t apply here.  Trademark law doesn’t require that UT abandon good sense; there is no reason that UT’s mark and all kinds of non-confusing parodies can’t co-exist.  Moreover, I don’t know that an independent First Amendment or parody defense is needed here, and I don’t know whether there is or should be a constitutional right to make fun of someone.  But if that right exists nowhere else, it has to exist when it comes to talking about your college’s archrival.

The defendants are Texas A&M alumni.  They own a registration for the phrase “Saw ’em off,” but an application to register the image (horns cut off the UT longhorn) was rejected because it was a “mutilation” of UT’s mark.  Still, the suit is seen by some as sour grapes.  The Aggies beat the defending national champion Longhorns last Fall, 12-7, in football.  In Austin.  The suit was filed ten days later.

The defendants

The defendants’ “legal defense fund”

The 12th manchild (pro-Aggies; images of lots of other arguably infringing marks)

Burnt Orange Nation (UT football blog; supportive of the Aggies here)

14 thoughts on “Saw ‘Em Off

  1. I just hope some judges start awarding attorneys’ fees to defendants to deter such frivolous (or at least vexatious) suits. Cite Diebold in your brief, A&M!

  2. I agree Mike. But maybe this is some sort of cosmic justice, given that their alma mater (Texas A&M) was itself pursuing a silly trademark claim against the Seattle Seahawks a little while back regarding the latter’s references to its crowds as “The 12th Man.”

  3. This is for Mark…
    The tradition of the Twelfth Man was born on the second of January 1922, when an underdog Aggie team was playing Centre College, then the nation’s top ranked team. As the hard fought game wore on, and the Aggies dug deeply into their limited reserves, Coach Dana X. Bible remembered a squad man who was not in uniform. He had been up in the press box helping reporters identify players. His name was E. King Gill, and was a former football player who was only playing basketball. Gill was called from the stands, suited up, and stood ready throughout the rest of the game, which A&M finally won 22-14. When the game ended, E. King Gill was the only man left standing on the sidelines for the Aggies. Gill later said, “I wish I could say that I went in and ran for the winning touchdown, but I did not. I simply stood by in case my team needed me.”

    *bangs head against a brick wall*

  4. This is for all the longhorns out there. Have y’all never heard of a joke. Honestly, “Saw Em’ Off” has been an Aggie Tradition since the early 1900’s. Why is it every time Texas A&M beats you, that you must file a suit about one of our traditions. I think that you are a bunch of sore losers who need to stop wasting what little money is out there and start using it on education. After all are you not a college? Is your job not to educate the youth of this state and nation. Instead you are more worried about who may be celebrating at your loss. As for the picture of the dog with the legs cut off this is just tasteless. When you saw the horns off a longhorn the animal is still able to live a normal and healthy life, but when a dog’s legs are removed it can not move around and will die. So next time that you want to start some silly little lawsuit, just think of what others will think about you.

  5. A&M has a similar suit against UT because a t-shirt with a dog and Saw ’em off geared towards the dog’s leg. You should do some research before talking about who can take a joke.

  6. “As for the picture of the dog with the legs cut off this is just tasteless.”

    So it’s not so funny when it’s your own mascot. A&M is for farmers and idiots. University of Texas is the birthplace of all that is cool, also the infinite time defending champion of the Lonestar Showdown

  7. Number one! Texas A&M is not suing texas over the reveille saw em off shirts! So Metoo you need to get your facts straight! Number two Texas A&M is in the Texas Constitution, there is nothing in there about Texas University. Number three Texas A&M has powered over texas in both the College of Engineering and the College of Business, which are suppose to be Texas Universities specialties. Number four all it amounts to is what sore losers they are. And the lawsuit against the football team was totally different cercumstances and was settled in a decent and dignified way!

    Saw ‘Em Off will live forever!

  8. Metoo, it’s true that Texas A&M was considering filing a suit of its own against the company with the Reveille shirts, but they decided against it because it would have been classless and ridiculous, much like tu’s original lawsuit. In actual law, there must be a cease and desist letter sent before you really have any legal course of action. tu didn’t send any such letter, thus making it seem really odd when they decided to up and file a lawsuit when the shirts have been sold for 10 years without a problem. The Fightin Texas Aggie Band has also performed a Saw Em Off maneuver on the field at halftime without any problem. And finally, I think A&M ultimately realized how dumb a picture of Reveille with her legs cut off was… Why is tu trying to piggy back on a tradition that they obviously hate so much?

    To Mark, yes Texas A&M University was involved in a legal battle with the Seattle Seahawks a few years back over the 12th Man. The difference in that case was that A&M owns the trademark and has done so for years. They sent numerous letters to Seattle asking them to stop using the trademarked phrase, but they never did. So then, Texas A&M was justified in taking legal action. Something you probably never heard about that particular case was that numerous other teams were using the 12th Man as well, but when contacted by Texas A&M and notified of the trademark, they all stopped. Seattle was the only team that did not, and charges were filed.

  9. Justin,

    It’s wise to take care when using a phrase such as “in actual law” on a blog written by a group of law professors. “In actual law,” there is no requirement that anyone send a cease and desist letter before filing a lawsuit.

    I agree with Mark that the “12th man” suit against the Seahawks was silly. Merely claiming a trademark and describing a college tradition doesn’t give you legal rights against anyone. It’s not worth belaboring the point further; Mark teaches trademark law for a living and knows what he’s talking about.

  10. AGGIELAND OUTFITTERS AND UT SETTLE “SAW ‘EM OFF” SUIT
    Longhorn Parody Continues With Minor Changes

    COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS: Aggieland Outfitters, located near the campus of Texas A&M University, announced today its owners have successfully settled a lawsuit brought by The University of Texas to stop sales of merchandise bearing the “SAW ‘EM OFF” logo, which parodies UT’s longhorn mascot.

    In the settlement, UT agreed that Fadi Kalaouze and his parent company Kalcorp could continue using the “SAW ‘EM OFF” logo, if they made minor changes that further distinguished it from UT’s longhorn trademark. The agreed-upon changes include adding a small blaze and nostrils to the steer’s face.

    “I am very happy with this settlement, “ says Fadi Kalaouze. “Most importantly, with this settlement Aggies will have the right to wear “SAW ‘EM OFF” shirts and poke fun at UT forever. We only had to make minor changes to our logo, and were able to stand our ground by not paying any royalties to UT for either past or future sales.”

    For nearly a decade, Fadi and Hege Kalaouze, owners of Aggieland Outfitters, have sold clothing and other products with the now-famous image of a longhorn with its horns cut off and the legend “SAW ‘EM OFF.” The logo embodies the Aggie War Hymn’s call to “Saw Varsity’s horns off.” Varsity being the original name of UT’s longhorn mascot, now called Bevo. Ten days after A&M’s stunning football victory over the Longhorns in 2006, UT sued Fadi Kalaouze and Kalcorp Enterprises, alleging “SAW ‘EM OFF” mutilated UT’s longhorn trademark and caused confusion among consumers.

    Kalaouze and Kalcorp, represented by Allan Van Fleet of the Greenberg Traurig law firm, answered that the SAW ‘EM OFF logo is a clear parody protected by the First Amendment and demonstrated that no one has ever been confused into thinking that “SAW ‘EM OFF” products were sponsored by UT.

    “Fadi and I want to personally thank everyone who supported our efforts to save the “SAW EM OFF” tradition,” says Hege Kalaouze. “We could not have done this without the Aggie community behind us, and are forever grateful for everyone’s support and kind words. Gig’em Ags!”

    For pictures of the new logo and background please visit:
    http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/sawemoff/26574/

  11. I find it a bit of a contradiction (hypocrisy) that a university in the bible belt, who supports such conservative views as the religious right would use a bible verse to support it’s sporting team…oh wait, that’s right football is in fact a religion in texas. Never mind.

  12. I have a sweatshirt that says ‘Save Saw ‘Em Off’ and everyone asks me what it means, but I have no idea. So if someone could explain all this as simple as possible, that’d be fantastic! (:

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