Taco Bell Wants To Strip Taco John's Of Its 'Taco Tuesday' Trademark

Taco Bell has officially petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to make the phrase "taco Tuesday" public domain. Currently, the words "Taco Tuesday" are under trademark by Taco John's, and have been since 1989. In short, if you've uttered, "Wow I'm so happy it's Taco Tuesday" in the privacy of your own home at least once during the last 34 years, then you may have been saying Taco John's trademarked slogan without even knowing it. Technically, Taco John's owns the words "Taco Tuesday" in 49 states. A small business called Gregory's holds the trademark in New Jersey, and Taco Bell is coming after Gregory's, too. On May 16 (fittingly a Tuesday), Taco Bell asked the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to revoke the trademark altogether.

Taco Bell noted that it has no intentions of taking over the "Taco Tuesday" trademark or seeking damages from Taco John's. Rather, the brand is inserting itself as the hands and feet of the taco gods and attempting to make the weekly holiday more accessible to foodies of all makes and creeds. The company outlined its credo in a press release defiantly titled "The Liberation of 'Taco Tuesday' Begins," writing, "How can anyone Live Más if they're not allowed to freely say 'Taco Tuesday?' It's pure chaos." The tone may be inherently humorous, but the taco giant has made its point explicitly clear: Relinquish "Taco Tuesday," Taco John's.

Taco bout controversy

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describes trademark infringement as "the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services." This kind of misleading activity was allegedly what led Chipotle to sue Sweetgreen over a "Chipotle Burrito Bowl" last month. In this new case, however, the idea of confusing customers about the source of the phrase may be important because Taco Bell is arguing that "Taco Tuesday" is not strongly associated with Taco John's but rather more of a generic term. The trademark holder isn't a big brand, and unless someone happens to live in the Midwest or Western U.S., then there's a chance that they've never even heard of Taco John's before but are very familiar with the sacred institution of "Taco Tuesday."

In fact, NBA All-Star Lebron James tried to claim the trademark back in 2019 and was unsuccessful, but it had nothing to do with Taco John's. The problem, said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was that "Taco Tuesday" is "a commonplace term" and therefore didn't qualify as something James could trademark, via ESPN.

Taco Bell is trying to enlist public support for its position through a "Freeing Taco T***day" petition on change.org. (Yes, it's a real thing.) According to the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's website, the board must provide an answer by June 25, 2023.