Taco Tuesday Trademark Truce?

In an earlier blog, we wrote about the Battle for Taco Tuesday between Taco Bell and Taco John’s. As a refresher, the phrase that’s generally universally used, Taco Tuesday, has been a registered trademark of a single restaurant chain, Taco John’s, for over three decades. That simple fact, however, has probably not stopped you, or a lot of others, from using that phrase to celebrate eating tacos on a Tuesday.

four tacos in a basket

In an earlier blog, we wrote about the Battle for Taco Tuesday between Taco Bell and Taco John’s. As a refresher, the phrase that’s generally universally used, Taco Tuesday, has been a registered trademark of a single restaurant chain, Taco John’s, for over three decades. That simple fact, however, has probably not stopped you, or a lot of others, from using that phrase to celebrate eating tacos on a Tuesday.

That’s right, Taco John’s, a Wyoming-based fast food chain with about 400 locations across 21 states, had trademarked “Taco Tuesday” since 1989 and had defended it vigorously against anyone who tried to use it without permission. The company even sent cease-and-desist letters to other restaurants, schools, and even NBA star LeBron James.

But that all changed this week, when Taco John’s announced that it was giving up its trademark and “sharing” the phrase with the world. The decision came after a legal challenge from its bigger rival, Taco Bell, which filed a petition in May to cancel the trademark on the grounds that it was too common and generic for anyone to own.

Taco Bell also launched an advertising campaign to “liberate Taco Tuesday” and urged taco fans to join the movement. The company argued that “nobody should have exclusive rights in a common phrase” and that “when tacos win, we all win.”

Taco John’s CEO Jim Creel said in a statement that the company decided to abandon the trademark because “paying millions of dollars to lawyers to defend our mark just doesn’t feel like the right thing to do.” He added that the company was donating $40,000 to Children of Restaurant Employees (CORE), a nonprofit that supports restaurant workers and their families in times of crisis.

The move was welcomed by taco lovers and industry experts, who said that the trademark had little value left and that Taco John’s could have faced a public relations backlash if it continued to fight. We believe that this is the right move. Taco Tuesday has become so commonly used that it would likely be unenforceable in court.

So what does this mean for you, the taco fan? Well, you can now enjoy Taco Tuesday at any restaurant of your choice, without worrying about legal consequences.* You can also use the phrase freely on social media, in your conversations, or even in your own blog posts. Just don’t forget to give credit where credit is due – to the humble taco.

*Note that while Taco John’s has had the registered trademark, a restaurant in New Jersey, Gregory’s Restaurant and Bar, had prior use to the mark in the state of New Jersey, and they have stated that they will continue to fight for their exclusive use of Taco Tuesday. So, if you live in New Jersey, you might not be able to celebrate the liberation of Taco Tuesday just yet.