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.
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
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