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El Fenix Sued For Infringement Over "Don't Mess With Tex-Mex" Slogan

May 23, 2018

There are a few things you don't mess with in Texas.  First of all, Texas itself.  Second, Tex-Mex.  And third, apparently the TxDOT.

For decades, the Texas Department of Transportation has used the popular slogan "Don't Mess with Texas" to teach locals and outsiders the ramifications of littering in the Lone Star State.  The phrase itself has grown into something of lore and a cultural icon in it's own right in the last 30 years, and the TxDOT wants to protect the sanctity of it at all cost, even if that means going after the oldest Tex-Mex restaurant chain in the country.

El Fenix recently painted mural on the walls of their Woodall Rodgers location, a big blue background with the words "DON'T MESS WITH TEX MEX" along with a Texas Flag painted on top of it.  It's beautiful, but TxDOT feels the painting "appropriates" their slogan.

TxDOT sent a statement to NBC 5 that read:

TxDOT recently became aware of the "Don’t Mess With Tex Mex" slogan being used by the El Fenix restaurant.  As TxDOT owns the "Don’t mess with Texas" slogan as the brand for its anti-litter campaign, we think El Fenix's appropriation of our slogan infringes upon and dilutes the value of our trademark.  In keeping with the intended anti-litter message of our trademarked brand, TxDOT, in August of 2017, denied El Fenix’s request to license "Don’t mess with Texas" as the basis for the restaurant’s "Don’t Mess With Tex Mex" slogan.

Representatives from El Fenix also recently sent this statement to NBC 5, saying there's no way the public would confuse the restaurant's celebration of Mexican food with an anti-littering campaign.

We pride ourselves on the fact that Tex-Mex and Texas have become so closely associated over the past 100 years, but not when it comes to trademark law.  El Fenix’s 'Don’t Mess with Tex-Mex' campaign is singularly focused on a celebration of our authentic recipes and clearly can't be confused with TxDOT’s anti-litter campaign.  We think our friends at TxDOT will have a change of heart if they come share a delicious enchilada meal and margaritas with us.  Our treat!

TxDOT has confirmed they will be in contact with El Fenix to try and remedy the situation.