May 16, 2023
Although many consider "Taco Tuesday" synonymous with dining on Mexican food during the second day of the work week, it's actually not legal for restaurants or companies to use the phrase. A familiar taco chain is now taking action to change that.
Taco Bell filed legal petitions with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to cancel the decades-old federal trademark registrations for “Taco Tuesday." In New Jersey, the trademark is held by Gregory's, a restaurant and bar located in Somers Point. In the other 49 states the Mexican-inspired chain Taco John's, a smaller-scale rival of Taco Bell, owns the rights.
The fast food chain does not want the trademark for itself; rather, it wants to "liberate" the phrase for all restaurants and businesses to use freely. The petitions would simply cancel the existing trademarks held by Gregory's and Taco John's.
"Taco Bell believes 'Taco Tuesday' should belong to all who make, sell, eat and celebrate tacos," the company said in a statement aptly released on Tuesday. "In fact, the very essence of 'Taco Tuesday' is to celebrate the commonality amongst people of all walks of life who come together every week to celebrate something as simple, yet culturally phenomenal, as the taco."
Taco Bell may have a strong case for cancellation of the trademark, since "Taco Tuesday" has become a commonly-used phrase among individuals and businesses. U.S. trademark law “prevents the registration of common phrases or phrases that become commonplace after a registration is granted,” trademark attorney Josh Gerben told CNN.
Gregory's, located at 900 Shore Road in Somers Point, first used the phrase in 1979 when the family-owned restaurant and bar began serving tacos solely on Tuesdays. In 1982, Gregory's was granted a federal registration for the "Taco Tuesday" trademark, meaning no other company in the U.S. could legally use the phrase. But the small business failed to renew the trademark properly and the USPTO canceled it.
Taco John's began using the phrase “Taco Twosday” after a Minnesota Taco John’s owner thought it up in the early 1980s to promote a two-tacos-for-99-cents deal. The phrase evolved into "Taco Tuesday," and Taco John's officially trademarked it in 1989 everywhere in the U.S. except N.J., where it was determined Gregory's could keep the rights after complicated legal proceedings.
For their part, Taco John's, which is primarily found in the Midwest and West U.S., released a statement on the battle over rights to the phrase. The company, which has defended its rights to the phrase through the years with cease-and-desist letters, also announced a new "Taco Tuesday" deal.
"When it comes right down to it, we’re lovers, not fighters, at Taco John’s,” CEO Jim Creel said. “But when a big, bad bully threatens to take away the mark our forefathers originated so many decades ago, well, that just rings hollow to us. If ‘living más’ means filling the pockets of Taco Bell’s army of lawyers, we’re not interested.”
Taco Bell's petitions were filed at midnight on Tuesday. Once processed, they will be available to view on the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s website. An excerpt of the petition can be viewed online.
The battle for "Taco Tuesday" could eventually lead to a trial if an agreement isn't reached among the restaurants involved. In the meantime, Taco Bell has launched a "Freeing Taco T***day" online petition.
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