Taco Bell Frees “Taco Tuesday” Trademark
Taco Bell recently ended its legal and marketing campaign to liberate the phrase “Taco Tuesday”.
In May 2023, Taco Bell filed a Petition for Cancellation before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to cancel the trademark registration for the phrase “Taco Tuesday” held for decades by the Taco John’s restaurant chain (in 49 states) and the restaurant Gregory’s (in New Jersey). Taco Bell asserted that “Taco Tuesday” is a “generic” term and a common place message, and therefore should not be allowed trademark protection. Generic terms are terms that the public understands as the common name for those goods or services (e.g. “beer” or “aspirin”), and are not eligible for trademark protection. A commonplace term, message, or expression widely used by a variety of sources (e.g. “I Love You” or “Drive Safely”) fails to function as a trademark and as such is not allowed trademark protection. In the Petition, Taco Bell sought “no damages or trademark rights” but just “common sense for usage of a common term.” Taco Bell additionally explained that it “believes ‘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.”
A few days after Taco Bell filed the Petition for Cancellation, the company announced LeBron James, a longtime supporter of “Taco Tuesday,” joined in its fight to free the trademark. In a statement James said, ‘Taco Tuesday’ is a tradition that everyone should be able to celebrate. All restaurants, all families, all businesses — everybody.” Previously In 2022, LeBron James’s Tuesday night taco dinners led to his attempted trademarking of “Taco Tuesday” but was denied by the USPTO on the basis that “Taco Tuesday” is “a commonplace term.”
In July 2023, Wyoming-based Mexican food chain Taco John’s made the wise decision to abandon its “Taco Tuesday” mark covering all states in the U.S. outside of New Jersey. To celebrate, Taco Bell partnered with DoorDash and opened a $5 million taco tab to cover a portion of orders from participating vendors selling Mexican food. Taco Bell additionally offered free Doritos Locos Tacos in all locations for four consecutive Tuesdays following the announcement. In October 2023, Gregory’s also agreed to abandon its “Taco Tuesday” trademark in New Jersey and Taco Bell celebrated by offering free Doritos Locos Tacos in New Jersey on a Tuesday the following month.
After six months, Taco Bell has finally won its fight to free the “Taco Tuesday” trademark. Now, no restaurant can claim exclusive rights over the phrase “Taco Tuesday,” not even Taco Bell. In a statement the company stated, “Taco Tuesday officially belongs to all who make, sell, eat and celebrate tacos now that the trademark registration has been relinquished in all 50 states.” While Taco Bell probably spent a small fortune on legal fees, the publicity they received most likely turned this trademark cancellation into a profitable marketing campaign. In the words of Taco Bell’s U.S. Chief Marketing Officer, Taylor Montgomery, “when tacos win, we all win.”