The Taco Tuesday Trademark Battle: Taco Bell vs. Taco John’s Explained
On Tuesday, I was enjoying the NBA Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics. I usually ignore any commercials, but one caught my eye. It was LeBron James being featured in a Taco Bell commercial where they were bleeping the “Tuesday” part of “Taco Tuesday” in a cheeky way. At the end of the commercial, there was a webpage link to change.org where Taco Bell was requesting signatures to help them overturn the “Taco Tuesday” trademark currently owned by Taco John’s.
The History of the Taco Tuesday Trademark
I began to do some research and It turns out Wyoming-based Taco John’s filed the trademark for “Taco Tuesday” in March of 1989 – let that sink in for a minute. I am aware of the term “Taco Tuesday” but only in the past decade or so. I have seen it on menus and heard it being used at restaurants to bring people in, however, I never considered that it was a trademarked term. I simply thought it was a good way to get people to restaurants on a Tuesday – it worked for me.
The term “Taco Twosday” originated when a Taco John’s restaurant owner devised a strategy to boost sales on their slowest day of the week – Tuesday. By offering a special deal of two tacos for just 99 cents, the owner was able to successfully turn around sales. Recognizing the effectiveness of this promotion, the owner shared the concept with fellow franchisees.
Over time, the name evolved to “Taco Tuesday,” and the phrase was officially trademarked and incorporated into Taco John’s marketing efforts nationwide. Since then, Taco John’s has actively defended their exclusive use of the “Taco Tuesday” phrase, taking legal action and sending cease-and-desist letters to individuals or businesses attempting to utilize it without authorization.
Source: ktMINE Search App
Taco Bell’s Efforts to Challenge the Trademark
The term “Taco Tuesday” is in the general lexicon, and Taco Bell is trying to use that as its wedge against Taco John’s to get the United States Trademark Office (USPTO) to revoke the trademark or have them abandon it altogether. On May 16th, Taco Bell took action by filing a petition with the USPTO to cancel the trademark, claiming that it “should be freely available to all who make, sell, eat, and celebrate tacos.”
As a result, there are two differing opinions on the matter. While some may not have been aware that the term “Taco Tuesday” was trademarked (like me), others may not see it as a significant issue. Given that Taco Bell is a large organization owned by Yum! Brands (which also owns Pizza Hut, KFC, and more), some people may be swayed to support them due to this extensive advertising campaign featuring a big public figure like LeBron James.
Taco John’s Defense of the Trademark
On the other hand, you have Taco John’s, which was granted the trademark and kept it alive since 1989. Somehow it seems like they’ve quietly held onto the trademark over all these years and are now becoming sensationalized over the campaign by Taco Bell. Should Taco John’s just fold under the pressure? I’m not sure what kind of leg(s) Taco Bell has to stand on other than to use some public pressure. In some ways, this looks like a David v Goliath type of situation.
Should Taco John’s Relinquish the Trademark?
The intriguing ongoing dispute over the trademark for “Taco Tuesday” raises several interesting questions. Should a trademark owner give up an asset they have maintained by the rules due to public pressure and change.org petitions? Or should they hold on and benefit from the PR attention that could help them grow their brand even more? It’s a fascinating story to follow and I am interested to see what decision Taco John’s ultimately makes regarding their “Taco Tuesday” trademark.