By: Kaylynn Kattiyaman
Taco Tuesday. A custom often associated with delicious meats and assorted vegetable toppings all wrapped together in the warm, crispy tortillas. Don’t forget the salsa or savory condiments on the side! Everyone and their mother knows this inviting and absolutely delectable phrase, as it is popular in many big cities across the nation. However, the lengths many have taken to keep Taco Tuesdays to themselves has a dated history.
In 1989, the phrase “Taco Tuesday” was trademarked by a Wyoming-based fast food restaurant chain named Taco John. While individual franchises have used the term for their own taco businesses, Taco John’s trademark claim on the iconic phrase defended against other uses of that phrase across the U.S. (except in New Jersey).
In 2019, Los Angeles Lakers basketball player, LeBron James, attempted to file a trademark request for “Taco Tuesday” in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). He wanted to be able to use the term “Taco Tuesday” for audio-visual works, podcasts, social media, and other entertainment services. The request was denied on the basis that Taco Tuesday was too broad and common of a phrase that is used to convey a well-recognized concept to be trademarked. This, then, marked the rise of the current case.
In May 2023, Taco Bell petitioned the USPTO, asking that the Taco Tuesday trademark be canceled and opened back up to the public domain. In the complaint, Taco Bell made sure to emphasize that “Taco Tuesday is critical to everyone’s Tuesday. 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.”
On July 17, 2023, Taco John’s announced that it decided to give up its “Taco Tuesday” trademark. Wanting to avoid litigation against Taco Bell, Taco John’s CEO, Jim Creel, stated that, “We’ve always prided ourselves on being the home of Taco Tuesday, but paying millions of dollars to lawyers to defend our mark just doesn’t feel like the right thing to do.”
In the aftermath of the Taco Tuesday trademark being abandoned, Taco John’s has opted to donate $40,000 to Children of Restaurant Employees (CORE). This nonprofit organization supports restaurant workers with children via financial relief during health-crisis, injury, death, or natural disaster. Taco John has since challenged its victorious competitor Taco Bell to do the same.