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Who owns Taco Tuesdays? Taco Bell battles to ‘liberate’ trademarked phrase

Taken from | Author: Alaina Demopoulos | Date: 18 May 2023

Taco John’s has claimed the widely used words since 1989 and sent cease-and-desist letters to other outlets.

The star of Taco Bell’s latest ad campaign is not Doja Cat or a talking chihuahua: it’s the United States Patent Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. On Tuesday, the chain announced that it had filed an appeal with the office to cancel the federal trademark restrictions for the phrase “Taco Tuesday”.

Since 1989, Taco John’s, a much smaller franchise based in Wyoming, has held a claim over “Taco Tuesday”. (Taco John’s has about 400 locations, while Taco Bell has more than 7,200). Over the years, Taco John’s has earned a reputation for sending cease-and-desist letters to other restaurants that dared to use the ubiquitous phrase.

“Taco Bell believes ‘Taco Tuesday’ should belong to all who make, sell, eat, and celebrate tacos,” the company wrote in a press release. “How can anyone Live Más if they’re not allowed to freely say ‘Taco Tuesday’? It’s pure chaos.”

Taco Bell added that customers who agreed with the campaign could sign a petition to “liberate” the phrase. Anyone curious enough to follow along with the bureaucratic saga can do so on the brand’s social media pages

Many Americans may be unaware that the Taco Tuesday event, held at countless Mexican restaurants across the country, is trademarked.

Barry Westrum, Taco John’s chief marketing officer, said the tradition had begun when a franchise owner based in St Paul, Minnesota, noticed that restaurants were slower on Sundays and Tuesdays. To lure customers in, he ran “Taco Twosdays”: two tacos for 99 cents. Ten years later, the company got its trademark.

“It’s been ours for 34 years, and we’re very proud of that,” Westrum said. “To this day, Tuesdays are our bestselling days of the week. While Taco Tuesdays may have become part of the American lexicon, that doesn’t give our competition the right to take it from us.”

But Taco John’s timeline is debatable. Gustavo Arellano, author of the book Taco USA, told the New York Times that he found evidence of American businesses offering special Taco Tuesday deals as far back as 1933.

And while Taco John’s trademark is far-reaching, it does not apply to New Jersey: Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar, located in Somers Point, filed a statewide trademark in 1982. (The owner of Gregory’s did not respond to a request for comment.)

In 2019, LeBron James tried to trademark the phrase, which he often used on Instagram to document his family’s weekly tradition. Back then, a spokesperson told the New York Times that James had no plans to monetize the ritual – yet – but wanted to make sure he could “pursue any ideas” in the future. His attempts were foiled by Taco John’s.

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