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  • Writer's pictureDavid Baker

TACO TUESDAY is Free for All!

To use. The TACO TUESDAY trademark is no longer registered to Taco John’s.

Taco John’s, the regional chain known for trademarking "Taco Tuesday," recently announced a surprising twist in a long-standing legal dispute. After over four decades of ownership, Taco John's is relinquishing its claim on the "Taco Tuesday" trademark in the United States. The decision stems from an ongoing feud with Taco Bell, with the regional chain opting not to continue the expensive legal battle.

Taco John’s CEO Jim Creel explained, “We’ve always prided ourselves on being the home of Taco Tuesday, but paying millions of dollars to lawyers to defend our mark just doesn’t feel like the right thing to do.” Instead, Taco John’s has chosen a more philanthropic path. They've pledged to contribute $100 per location in their system to support restaurant employees with children facing health crises, death, or natural disasters. Furthermore, they're challenging competitors and fellow taco-loving brands to join them in assisting those who serve our favorite food nationwide.

The origins of this trademark dispute go back to the 1980s when a Taco John’s restaurant owner coined the term "Taco Twosday" to promote a special deal. This catchphrase evolved into "Taco Tuesday," and the chain officially trademarked it in 1989. Taco John’s has vigorously defended this trademark over the years, sending cease-and-desist letters to those who attempted to use it.

The battle over "Taco Tuesday" also involved, owned by a Southern California restaurant group, which argues that the phrase should be available for everyone to use, much like "happy hour" or "Sunday brunch." Nevertheless, Taco John’s retained the trademark in 49 states, with Gregory Hotel owning it in New Jersey due to trademark complexities.

In the end, Taco Bell had sought to invalidate Taco John’s trademark, asserting that "Taco Tuesday" should be a universal term, and Taco John’s agreed, acknowledging that a protracted and expensive legal battle wasn’t warranted by the underlying value of the trademark. Taco John’s decision to relinquish the trademark also reflects changing times and public sentiment as well as its recognition that there was probably a low probability of winning this battle. Bowing out at this point allows them to shape the court of public opinion positively.

Why It Matters.

The resolution of the "Taco Tuesday" trademark battle carries essential lessons for business and brand owners. It highlights the significance of understanding evolving market dynamics and public perception. In a world where language and branding can quickly become part of everyday life, businesses must balance the protection of intellectual property with the potential costs, both financially and in terms of public relations.

For business and brand owners, the case of Taco John’s underscores the importance of adaptability and the ability to pivot when necessary. In the age of social media and rapid communication, a trademark dispute can quickly become a public relations issue. Taco John’s shift from defending its trademark to charitable giving demonstrates a proactive approach to preserving its brand image.

Additionally, this case serves as a reminder that trademarks and intellectual property need to be managed strategically. Business owners should regularly assess the relevance and value of their trademarks in changing market landscapes. Ultimately, the "Taco Tuesday" trademark battle showcases the delicate balance between legal protection and maintaining a positive brand reputation in today's business environment.

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