The Lowdown: Taco Tuesday

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The Lowdown: Taco Tuesday

Related tags Tacos Taco Bell Mexican cuisine Trademark

Taco Bell has filed an appeal to cancel trademark restrictions on the popular marketing phrase Taco Tuesday.

Hang on. Taco Tuesday is trademarked?
It sure is. While many of us will naturally have assumed the phrase to be a generic and universally known attempt by restaurants to shift Mexican food on a traditionally quieter day of the week, it is fact trademarked.

That’s deep. By whom?
Wyoming-based restaurant group Taco John’s lays claim to the phrase. Its website proudly states: ‘Ever heard of Taco Tuesday®? Fun fact: we started it! We even trademarked it. That’s how seriously we take tacos.’ Taco John’s has held that trademark in 49 states since 1989, the exception being New Jersey, where Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar filed a state-wide trademark in 1982.

So that’s that then?
Not quite. Taco behemoth Taco Bell has taken exception to the trademark and has launched a petition to try and convince the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel its registration. In its petition the company asks: “How can someone own ‘Taco Tuesday’? It’s a common phrase. Can you imagine if we weren’t allowed to say ‘what’s up’ or ‘brunch? Taco Bell believes everyone should be able to say and celebrate Taco T***day wherever, and however, they want. And that’s why Taco Bell is challenging the trademark in court.” It followed this up with a statement that said: “Taco Bell believes ‘Taco Tuesday’ should belong to all who make, sell, eat and celebrate tacos. 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?’” 

Does it stand a chance of success?
Very possibly. The issue has brought to light the work of journalist and author Gustavo Arellano’s book Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America​. In it he says a couple of other restaurants used the phrase before Taco John’s did, the first documented case having appeared in a 1973, edition of the Rapid City Journal​ in South Dakota where the phrase ‘Stop in on Taco Tuesday’ was used by the Snow White Drive In. Arellano also says restaurants in Manhattan, Kansas and California have also used the phrase before Taco John’s did. More recently, the phrase was used in the 2014 film The Lego Movie, ​where it was 'invented' by the character President Business.

How’s it getting on?
At the time of writing only 610 people had signed the petition, so it’s not off to a blazing start.

I’m sure we’ve seen Taco Tuesday over here anyway…
You likely will have. A US trademark registration will not protect a company’s trademark in a foreign country and must be filed in each country where protection is sought. In the case of Taco John’s it doesn’t appear to have filed for a trademark for the phrase in the UK.

What is it about tacos and trademarks anyway?
Good question. The seemingly innocuous handheld item seems to court controversy both sides of The Pond. Last year Taqueria Sonora was threatened with legal action​ by Worldwide Taqueria, the business name of Taqueria, which operates two London ‘taquerias’ over what it said was a trademark infringement. Taqueria Sonora also opted for the petition approach, this time to defend its case, pointing out that the word ‘taqueria’ is found across Mexico, the US, and many other places in the world to describe somewhere that sells tacos.








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