Taco Titans Tangle Over ‘Taco Tuesday’

Homemade Tacos | Image by Brent Hofacker, Shutterstock

Taco Bell believes the phrase “Taco Tuesday” should belong to the masses, and to that end, the company filed a petition on Tuesday with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, seeking to liberate the ubiquitous term.

Since 1989, the phrase has been protected as a registered trademark of Taco John’s Restaurant in 49 states. In New Jersey, the term was patented by Gregory’s Restaurant and Bar about 40 years ago. Any other persons or entities using “Taco Tuesday” could face potential legal consequences, but Taco Bell believes this is “not cool.”

Taco Bell argued in the petition that “Taco Tuesday” is a common phrase, and no one should have exclusive rights to a common phrase. The company said it is not seeking damages but “reason and common sense.”

The legal term for the company’s argument is genericide, which is “the process by which a brand name loses its distinctive identity as a result of being used to refer to any product or service of its kind,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Some examples of trademarked terms that have undergone this kind of generification are thermos, aspirin, escalator, and shredded wheat.

“This Petition is brought because Taco Bell believes that tacos, just like the joy they bring, belong to everyone on any day. Ergo, ‘Taco Tuesday’ should belong to everyone,” the company asserted in its petition.

“Taco Bell 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,” the filing reads.

Wyoming-based Taco John’s, which has about 370 franchise locations throughout the Western and Midwestern United States, is making the most of the kerfuffle by offering a special two-week Taco Tuesday promotion, AP reported.

“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 wrote in an emailed statement to the news outlet. “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.”

Taco John’s claims on its website that it originated the Taco Tuesday trend, and it stated on its trademark registration form that it had been using the phrase since 1979. However, research by Gustavo Arellano published in the Thrillist revealed documented cases of Taco Tuesday specials in restaurants all across the United States from the 1930s onward.

Taco Bell, which operates more than 7,200 franchises, is inviting all like-minded Taco Tuesday lovers to join the fight to liberate the phrase by signing the Freeing Taco T***day petition, which can be found here.

“If one of us is not free to celebrate ‘Taco Tuesday,’ then none of us are free to celebrate ‘Taco Tuesday.’ A win for Taco Bell here is a win for all. When tacos win, we all win,” Taco Bell claimed in its filing.

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