Earlier this week, I happened to come across an interesting article from the online version of The Dallas Morning News regarding a trademark dispute brewing between the State of Texas and a non-profit corporation called The Daughters of the Republic of Texas (“The Daughters”), which has operated and maintained The Alamo museum in San Antonio since 1905. According to the article, The Daughters filed a federal trademark application for the mark THE ALAMO for “museum services.” The Trademark Office allowed the application, but when Texas state officials learned of the application, the Texas government (which owns the actual Alamo property) filed a request for a 90 day extension of time to oppose the application. Apparently, the governor’s office needed additional time to investigate the issue and has hired a Houston attorney with an expertise in trademark law to determine whether Texas has a valid claim in THE ALAMO trademark.
After reading this article, I was curious to see how many pending trademark applications and existing trademark registrations there are for marks incorporating the word “ALAMO.” My cursory search revealed approximately 85, the oldest of which dates back to 1926 and is for “lemons.” Of course, there’s also the well-known ALAMO for car rental services (Reg. No. 1097722), and the annual ALAMO BOWL college football game (Reg. No. 2074095). I also noticed that The Daughters itself owns a registration for AGUA DEL ALAMO for “bottled water” dating back to 2001. There are also about 50 other registrations that are dead because their owners failed to timely file a renewal. So, clearly, over the years, many business have adopted and used marks incorporating the term “ALAMO” for a variety of different products and services.
Since I obviously don’t know all the facts pertaining to the long relationship between The Daughters and The Lone Star State, it’s impossible for me to intelligently comment on which party is the rightful owner of THE ALAMO mark. However, it is my understanding that the Texas Legislature appointed The Daughters as permanent caretakers of The Alamo property in the early 20th century, which may be interpreted as a licensor-licensee relationship. Whatever the case may be, I find it highly amusing that dozens of other businesses sought federal protection for their ALAMO trademarks while The Daughters and the State of Texas waited over 100 years to protect the very mark on which all of these other businesses’ trademarks are based. I mean, I know the good people of Texas have a reputation for being laid back, but perhaps waiting over a century to figure out who owns THE ALAMO mark and to obtain federal protection for it might have been just a tad much.
Bottom line: Texas-sized litigation at the taxpayers’ expense may be on its way.