Fast food giant Taco Bell had filed a petition asking U.S. regulators to force the Taco John’s restaurant chain to abandon its trademark on the phrase “Taco Tuesday.” The Wyoming-based chain has held the trademark since 1989 and their claim to it has been challenged multiple times. Most notably in 2019, when NBA star LeBron James filed a claim for his own trademark on the term.
James’ claim was denied because “the applied-for mark is a commonplace term, message, or expression widely used by a variety of sources that merely conveys an ordinary, familiar, well-recognized concept or sentiment message,” per the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
But the filing still accomplished what James set out to do. “Finding ‘Taco Tuesday’ as commonplace achieves precisely what the intended outcome was, which was getting the U.S. government to recognize that someone cannot be sued for its use,” a spokesman said.
This is almost exactly the same argument Taco Bell is making. “Taco Bell believes ‘Taco Tuesday’ is critical to everyone’s Tuesday,” the filing reads. “To deprive anyone of saying ‘Taco Tuesday’ — be it Taco Bell or anyone who provides tacos to the world — is like depriving the world of sunshine itself.”
Taco John’s only has about 370 locations in 23 states, mostly in the West and Midwest. As opposed to Taco Bell’s 7,200 national and international locations. It has not stopped Taco John’s from vigorously enforcing its “Taco Tuesday” trademark. In 2019, a brewery five blocks away from Taco John’s corporate office, got a letter warning them to stop using the phrase to promote a taco truck that parked outside on Tuesdays.
Seemingly unfazed by this most recent challenge, Taco John’s responded by announcing a new two-week “Taco Tuesday” promotion. “I’d like to thank our worthy competitors at Taco Bell for reminding everyone that Taco Tuesday is best celebrated at Taco John’s,” CEO Jim Creel wrote in a statement. “We love celebrating Taco Tuesday with taco lovers everywhere, and we even want to offer a special invitation to fans of Taco Bell to liberate themselves by coming by to see how flavorful and bold tacos can be at Taco John’s all month long.”
But, as James’ ruling proved, no one can really hold the full rights to its use. “‘Taco Tuesday’ is a common phrase,” reads Taco Bell’s petition. “Nobody should have exclusive rights in a common phrase. Can you imagine if we weren’t allowed to say ‘what’s up’ or ‘brunch?’ Chaos.”
To further prove that point Taco Bell filed another petition that same day. The first petition contests Taco John’s claim to “Taco Tuesday” in 49 states. The second contests Gregory’s Restaurant and Bar in New Jersey to its legal claim to “Taco Tuesday” in that state. Gregory’s Restaurant and Bar has been using the phrase for over 40 years.
We’ll keep you posted on updates about the battle over “Taco Tuesday” as they develop.