Taco Bell on Trademark War: 'Taco Tuesday' Belongs to All

Fast-food giant asks Patent and Trademark Office to force smaller chain to give up rights to the term
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 17, 2023 6:21 AM CDT
Taco Bell on Trademark War: 'Taco Tuesday' Belongs to All
A sign stands outside the corporate headquarters of Cheyenne-based Taco John's on Aug. 1, 2019, in Cheyenne, Wyoming.   (AP Photo/Mead Gruver)

Declaring a mission to liberate "Taco Tuesday" for all, Taco Bell is asking US regulators to force Wyoming-based Taco John's to abandon its long-standing claim to the trademark. Too many businesses and others refer to "Taco Tuesday" for Taco John's to be able to have exclusive rights to the phrase, Taco Bell asserted in a US Patent and Trademark Office filing that was, of course, dated Tuesday. It's the latest development in a long-running beef over Taco Tuesday that even included NBA star LeBron James making an unsuccessful attempt in 2019 to claim the trademark, per the AP. "Taco Bell believes 'Taco Tuesday' is critical to everyone's Tuesday," the fast-food giant's 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."

With more than 7,200 locations in the US and internationally, Taco Bell—a Yum Brands Inc. chain, along with Pizza Hut and KFC— is vastly bigger than Cheyenne-based Taco John's. Started as a food truck more than 50 years ago, Taco John's now has about 370 locations in 23 mainly Midwestern and Western states. The chain's relatively small size hasn't discouraged big-time enforcement of "Taco Tuesday" as its trademark, which was OKed by the PTO in 1989. In 2019, the company sent a letter to a brewery just five blocks from its corporate headquarters, warning it to stop using "Taco Tuesday" to promote a taco truck parked outside on Tuesdays. Actively defending a trademark is key to maintaining claim to it, and that letter is just one example of Taco John's telling restaurants far and wide that nobody else may use "Taco Tuesday."

Yet "Taco Tuesday" has such widespread use and recognition these days—as a generic way of promoting tacos on a specific day of the week—that Taco John's can't claim exclusive ownership, Taco Bell claims. "'Taco Tuesday' is a common phrase," reads the Taco Bell doc. "Can you imagine if we weren't allowed to say 'What's up?' or 'brunch'? Chaos." Taco John's responded to Taco Bell's filing by announcing a new two-week Taco Tuesday promotion, with a large side of riposte. "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 said in an emailed 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."

(More Taco Bell stories.)

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