University of Texas’ “Hook 'em Horns” to Do Trademark Battle with Heavy Metal’s “Sign of the Horns”

University of Texas’ “Hook 'em Horns” to Do Trademark Battle with Heavy Metal’s “Sign of the Horns”

We love our college football, and we love our heavy metal, but the two can't coexist according to the University of Texas (UT) - at least in terms of hand signals.

The University of Texas has sued Michael Weir d/b/a Horns Inc., accusing the apparel designer of infringing UT's Hook 'em Horns hand gesture. Horns Inc. designs shirts that display a hand signal, which is sometimes referred to as the "sign of the horns."

"Defendant's unauthorized use of the Horns Inc. Marks," UT alleges, "is likely to cause confusion ... at least as to some affiliation, connection or association of Defendant with UT ...."

The University is seeking to protect its design mark, which originated half a century ago when students began using what is commonly referred to as the "Hook 'em Horns" hand signal. The hand signal consists of a hand with the palm facing forward, the index and little finger extended, and the middle and ring fingers held down with the thumb. The University has several registrations related to its Hook 'em Horns marks.

The University filed suit to prevent Horns Inc.'s continued use of the "sign of the horns," a hand gesture that mirrors the Hook 'em Horns mark. Horns Inc.'s hand gesture has a strong affiliation with music culture; specifically, heavy metal. Horns Inc. promotes its "'UNIQUE' horns designs" and describes its customers as those in the music industry and those with an "allegiance to the horns logo."

Horns Inc. is accused of intending to cause confusion and trade on UT's vast goodwill in the Hook 'em Horns marks.

"Defendant's unauthorized use of the Horns Inc. Marks enables Defendant to trade on and receive the benefit of goodwill built up at great labor and expense by the University over many years," UT claims.

In the past, UT has proven itself diligent in defending its intellectual property. Last year, UT won a trademark judgment after an Austin car wash erected a replica of UT's famous clock tower. The University successfully argued that the tower and the tower marks, in the same manner as Pebble Beach and White Castle, function as inherently distinctive marks.

"The Car Wash's logo, the replica tower, and the color on the logo each reflect a great similarity to the marks used by the University," the court said. "Although lacking is any similarity between the products or services each of the parties provides, it is undisputed that the Car Wash's intent was to benefit from the University's efforts and there exists proof of actual confusion as to the connection or affiliation of the University with the Car Wash."


Sign in with your ID to access Trademark Law resources on or any of these Mathew Bender Trademark Law publications:

Click here to order Trademark Law treatises/resources and Mathew Bender publications. 

LexisNexis Publications:

View the LexisNexis Catalog of Legal and Professional Publications

LexisNexis eBooks

Click here for a list of available LexisNexis eBooks.

Click here to learn more about LexisNexis eBooks.

For more information about LexisNexis products and solutions connect with us through our corporate site.