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'Taco Tuesday' trademark dispute is over. Here's who won the fight

Taco Bell and Taco John's had been fighting over "Taco Tuesday" for months, but one company just stepped out of the dispute.
'Taco Tuesday' trademark dispute is over. Here's who won the fight
Posted at 4:27 PM, Jul 18, 2023

"Taco Tuesday" has become a U.S. custom in recent years, serving as a weekday filled with deals on the Mexican dish or just a celebrated day to cook the cuisine at home.

Although multiple restaurants have taken part in the custom, fast food chain Taco John's has actually owned the phrase's trademark since 1989 in every state except New Jersey. That's until one "Taco Tuesday" when the company decided to give it up.

On Tuesday, July 18, Taco John's announced it would formally "abandon" the "Taco Tuesday" trademark due to the costs of defending it against rival chain Taco Bell.

In May, Taco Bell filed a petition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office to "liberate" the trademark from Taco John's, allowing other restaurants to freely promote the custom without infringing on the trademark. 

"Taco Bell believes 'Taco Tuesday' should belong to all who make, sell, eat and celebrate tacos," Taco Bell said then in a statement. "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. How can anyone Live Más if they’re not allowed to freely say 'Taco Tuesday?' It’s pure chaos."

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In response, Taco John's parent company Spicy Seasonings, LLC, said the custom of "Taco Tuesdays" wasn't familiar until the company trademarked it and that there wasn't a legal basis to cancel its trademark, saying, "Whether a registered trademark is 'fun to say' does not constitute a legal basis to cancel a trademark."

There were multiple tit-for-tat filings to follow, with Taco John's defending its rightful path to the trademark more than 40 years ago and Taco Bell saying it was using "reason and common sense" to question Taco John's "not cool" ownership of the "generic" trademark. 

In one filing, Taco John's recognized it couldn't send cease-and-desist letters to every infringer of the trademark, to which Taco Bell said an inability to "adequately police" the trademark should lead to its abandonment. 

But the fateful Tuesday when the dispute between the companies finally ended, Taco John's CEO Jim Creel said that although the company prides itself in being home to the phrase, "paying millions of dollars to lawyers to defend our mark just doesn't feel like the right thing to do." Creel also said as a result of the abandoned trademark, the company would now donate $40,000 to CORE, or Children of Restaurant Employees — a nonprofit providing financial relief to restaurant workers when they, a spouse or child faces a life-altering crisis.

As for the trademark's future in New Jersey, the dispute is still simmering. Gregory's Restaurant & Bar in Somers Point says it will continue the fight against Taco Bell for exclusive rights to the "Taco Tuesday" phrase. 

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