Remember the Alamo!

BEK Specialty Beverages Alamo beer van

BEK Specialty Beverages Alamo beer van

The Alamo is a big deal for Texans. Growing up 75 miles away in Austin, I learned that lesson early. What is today the #1 tourist attraction in Texas likely would have remained just another Spanish mission if it hadn’t been for Mexican General Santa Anna and his troops defeating William B. Travis and the Texicans in 1836 during the battle for independence from Mexico. Santa Anna left a few survivors and sent them to tell the disastrous tale of the Alamo. Instead of giving up, the remaining Texicans took to shouting “Remember the Alamo,” most famously at San Jacinto where the Mexicans lost the battle and the war. (Although, as my Mexican-born husband reminds me, many Mexicans see the symbol of the Alamo differently.)

Alamo Crackers

Alamo Crackers

Today, you see and hear the name all over San Antonio. A search on the website of the city’s Better Business Bureau shows 1044 businesses with Alamo in their names. There’s a community college, a refrigeration company, cookies and cigars that all use the Alamo name and either the distinctive outline or a reproduction of the building.* As kids, we all recognized the iconic image. Heck, it’s even on the side of my senior ring from William B. Travis High School. It’s the image that Eugene Simor, founder and president of Alamo Beer Company, chose to use when he trademarked the name for the beer he first contract-brewed back in 1997.

Alamo Beer’s start was a little slow, but since 2003, it’s been regularly available in San Antonio. In fact, things have gone so well that Alamo opened an $8 million brewery and beer garden just east of downtown in March.

Alamo beers

Alamo beers

Meanwhile, a small brewery near Houston had started using the Alamo shape. In multiple non-legal attempts, Simor and his attorney informed them that this caused confusion with the Alamo Beer brand and asked them to stop using the shape. After the other brewery refused their non-legal requests, Simor filed a lawsuit. We all know you don’t mess with Texas. Three days later the state of Texas filed its own suit against both breweries.

Last Thursday, April 30, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush (Jeb’s son) announced that a San Antonio court had upheld the state’s ownership of the Alamo mark. Specifically, “images or insignia such as the roofline design of the Alamo,” cannot be used without a state license. This does not include use of the name Alamo (which must come as a relief to the other 1043 Alamo business owners). General Land Office press secretary Brittany Eck said, “Alamo Brewing Company is the first commercial recipient of an official license to use the Alamo mark, for which they paid a substantial licensing fee.”

Eugene Simor

Eugene Simor in front of the Alamo

When I spoke with Eugene Simor on Friday morning, the court decision was the lead story in the San Antonio Express-News. Simor sounded relaxed and upbeat, relieved to finally have the legal wrangling settled. I asked what he thought the decision might mean for other businesses that use the Alamo image. “No one is sure, but the case definitely sets a precedent. I’m just happy to be able to move forward and to be the first business officially licensed to use the Alamo mark.”

If the state of Texas does decide to get tough on Alamo image offenders, it could lead to a long, slippery slope. Ditto for the University of Texas that in 2011 cracked down on Tower Car Wash in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park. The car wash that was ordered to modify a 60-foot replica of the UT Tower filed for bankruptcy last year. Simor mentioned Liberty Mutual Insurance’s use of the Statue of Liberty image.

For now: Remember the Alamo. Just be careful with its image.

* In addition to Alamo Beer, I emailed four businesses that use the Alamo image requesting permission to use their logos in this post. My thanks to Wild West Products, makers of Alamo Crackers, the only one that replied granting permission.

Comments

  1. Bonita Cox says:

    Good blog, Leslie. Love the way you research!

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