Updated May 22, 2023 - Economy

Taco Bell, LeBron James want to free "Taco Tuesday" from trademark

Illustration of a taco sitting in a scale

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Fast-food giant Taco Bell filed legal petitions to “liberate” the trademark “Taco Tuesday” that a small competitor has owned since 1989.

Driving the news: Taco Bell announced on May 16 (a Tuesday) they are asking the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, part of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, to cancel the trademark registration that Wyoming-based Taco John’s has owned for the last 34 years.

  • Taco Bell said the trademark has restricted restaurants nationwide from using the popular phrase and the company "believes 'Taco Tuesday' should belong to all who make, sell, eat and celebrate tacos."
  • The company says it's not seeking any damages or a new trademark for the phrase.

The latest: On Monday, Taco Bell announced LeBron James supports the company's "effort to cancel the registered trademark."

  • “'Taco Tuesday’ is a tradition that everyone should be able to celebrate. All restaurants, all families, all businesses — everybody,” James said in a news release. “‘Taco Tuesdays’ create opportunities that bring people together in so many ways, and it’s a celebration that nobody should own.”
  • In 2019, James filed a request to trademark “Taco Tuesday,” but was denied with the Patent and Trademark Office saying the phrase was a “commonplace term,” ESPN reported.

Context: Taco John’s owns the Taco Tuesday registration in 49 states and a business called Gregory’s owns the registration in New Jersey, Taco Bell said.

  • Taco Bell said it has also filed a petition to cancel Gregory’s registration covering New Jersey.
  • Over the years, Taco John's lawyers have sent cease-and-desist letters to restaurants as well as media outlets for using the term.
  • A 2017 Vice article with the headline “This Chain Owns the Taco Tuesday Trademark, and It's Not Afraid to Sue You” talked about Taco John’s sending cease-and-desist letters even to those using the hashtag #TacoTuesday on Twitter.

What’s happening: After the larger chain’s announcement, Taco John CEO Jim Creel thanked Taco Bell for "reminding everyone that Taco Tuesday is best celebrated at Taco John’s."

  • Taco John's has nearly 400 restaurants in 23 states. Meanwhile, there are 7,200 Taco Bells in the U.S.
  • "But when a big, bad bully threatens to take away the mark our forefathers originated so many decades ago, well, that just rings hollow to us," Creel said in a statement. "If ‘living más’ means filling the pockets of Taco Bell’s army of lawyers, we’re not interested."

What's next: The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board can take up to two years before a decision is issued, CNN reports.

  • Taco John’s has 40 days to file a response and the case will move to a discovery period if the two chains don’t reach an agreement.
  • Taco Bell is asking its fans to show support for its efforts by signing a "Freeing Taco Tuesday petition" at Change.org.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include Taco Bell's announcement that LeBron James is supporting its fight to cancel the Taco Tuesday trademark.

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