Updated Jul 18, 2023 - Economy

Taco Tuesday fight ends as Taco John's abandons trademark

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The fight over the “Taco Tuesday” trademark is over.

Driving the news: Taco John’s confirmed to Axios Tuesday that it will abandon its longtime trademark registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, after Taco Bell fought to "liberate" it.

  • Restaurants across the country can now use the popular term to promote Tuesday specials without fear of cease-and-desist letters.
  • Taco John’s CEO Jim Creel said it would have cost as much as $1 million to defend the trademark, The Wall Street Journal first reported.

The latest: "When tacos win, we all win," Taco Bell CEO Mark King said in a statement shared with Axios Wednesday, praising Taco John's decision.

Flashback: Taco Bell filed legal petitions in mid-May aiming to cancel the trademark registration that its small Wyoming-based competitor has owned since 1989.

  • Taco Bell said in May that 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."

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

  • Taco Bell said in May that it also filed a petition to cancel Gregory’s registration covering New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Taco John’s announced Tuesday that it was “challenging our litigious competitors and other taco-loving brands” to join in supporting the non-profit organization Children of Restaurant Employees (CORE).

  • Taco John’s said it is donating $100 per location in its system and giving a $40,000 donation to CORE.

What they’re saying: “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,” Creel said in a news release.

  • “Taco Tuesday belongs to everyone,” Pamela Waitt, founder of TacoTuesday.com, said in a statement. “Restaurants depend on Taco Tuesdays to help their bottom line and millions of people love celebrating it.”
  • “Though technically a win, in the end, I don’t think it will actually mean that much to Taco Bell because everyone will now be able to use the phrase “Taco Tuesday,” Emily Poler, founding partner of Poler Legal, told Axios.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout including a statement from Taco Bell's CEO.

More from Axios:

Go deeper