Hairy Bull Outcome
When is Bevo not Bevo? That's the thorny issue of spoof sports t-shirts.
By Richard Whittaker, 10:09AM, Fri. Sep. 28, 2007
College football means two things: rivalry and t-shirt sales. After all, if it wasn't for UT, the world would be knee-deep in excess logo-less, burnt orange apparel. But then, there's the thorny issue of rivalry shirts, the ones churned out endlessly on big match days to convince fans that every game is a blood-deep feud that can only be solved by an overwhelming victory and the sale of lots of "O-Who?" merchandise.
Last year, University of Texas at Austin sued independent business Aggieland Outfitters over their Longhorn-lampooning design. The issue was the logo, which looked exactly like UT's famous Bevo, but the longhorn's horns had been sawed off. Underneath was the slogan "Saw 'Em Off." Unsurprisingly, they sold lot of them to Texas A&M students, not so many at UT Austin. Apparently, this visual pun was too much for UT, whose regents claimed that it infringed their carefully-guarded copyright and was "confusingly" similar to their own logo. They sued, and the t-shirt firm settled out of court.
Their solution? This week, Aggieland Outfitters had to officially retire their old logo, and start selling a replacement. The new logo looks exactly the same, except that now not-Bevo has a tuft of hair on his forehead.
What has been less widely reported is that, earlier this year, A&M attempted a very similar case against Austin-based Rival Wear for their Reveille the Collie pastiche shirt.
So much for good-natured joshing – and, seemingly, for First Amendment, parody-as-protected speech defense. Some would say that it's a sad indictment of affairs that a college would go to court over a t-shirt. But, as one sports reporter of Chronic's acquaintance put it, it's better than the old days, when UT sports fans driving to a match in Oklahoma would take the Texas plates off their car when they parked up, so they wouldn't come back to find it upside down or on fire.