Taco Bell is challenging a Wyoming-based fast-food chain’s claim to the trademark “Taco Tuesday,” arguing that it is a generic term that should be free for all to use.
The Irvine, Calif.-based company filed a petition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, seeking to cancel Taco John’s registration of “Taco Tuesday” as a trademark. Taco Bell said that the phrase has become so widely used and recognized that it no longer identifies Taco John’s as the source of the goods or services.
Taco John’s, which operates about 370 locations in 23 states, has been enforcing its trademark since the 1980s and has sent cease-and-desist letters to restaurants across the country that use “Taco Tuesday” to promote their taco deals. The company obtained the trademark in 1989 after using it in advertising since 1982.
Taco Bell said that its petition was motivated by a mission to liberate “Taco Tuesday” for all taco lovers and providers. “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,” the petition read.
Taco John’s responded to Taco Bell’s filing by announcing a new two-week Taco Tuesday promotion and issuing a statement that taunted its larger rival. “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. “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.”
The dispute over “Taco Tuesday” is not new. In 2019, NBA star LeBron James tried to trademark the phrase for his social media posts but was rejected by the Patent and Trademark Office, which deemed it a “commonplace term” that did not qualify as a trademark.
The outcome of Taco Bell’s petition will depend on whether “Taco Tuesday” has become generic over the years, meaning that it does not have any association with a particular source or product. Other examples of words that have lost their trademark status due to genericide include “cellophane,” “escalator” and “trampoline.”
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