Taco Bell—the largest and most recognizable taco chain in the world—isn’t allowed to use the phrase “Taco Tuesday,” and the brand is now taking a stand.
Since 1989, the phrase has been trademarked by Taco John’s almost everywhere. It prevents businesses in 49 of 50 states from using the expression. In New Jersey, a small business called Gregory’s owns the trademark.
On Tuesday, Taco Bell filed a legal petition to remove the trademark—from both Taco John’s and Gregory’s—and release it to the public. The company even created a Change.org website for people to vote in favor of freeing the trademark.
Taco Bell’s argument is that “Taco Tuesday” is a common, generic term.
“This Petition is brought because Taco Bell believes that tacos, just like the joy they bring, belong to everyone on any day,” the petition states. “Ergo, ‘Taco Tuesday should belong to everyone.”
According to CNN, a Taco John’s operator came up with the phrase “Taco Twosday” in the early 1980s to boost sales, and the promotion worked so well it was shared across the system. The naming was eventually switched to “Taco Tuesday” and trademarked. Since then, Taco John’s has defended ownership of the phrase and sent cease-and-desist letters to competitors.
Josh Gerben, a trademark lawyer, told CNN that Taco Bell could very well win the case since the term “Taco Tuesday” has become so commonplace. He said the fact that Taco John’s created the phrase may not be enough to keep the trademark.
Taco John’s said Taco Bell did not reach out about its litigation.
The chain isn’t shying away either. In direct response to Taco Bell’s announcement, Taco John’s released a new Taco Tuesday promotion—$2 for 2 Tacos (crispy or soft shell) every day until May 31 for rewards members.
Taco John’s CEO Jim Creel said the brand is offering an invitation for Taco Bell fans to “liberate themselves by coming by to see how flavorful and bold tacos can be at Taco John’s all month long.”
“When it comes right down to it, we’re lovers, not fighters, at Taco John’s,” Creel said in a statement. “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. If ‘living más’ means filling the pockets of Taco Bell’s army of lawyers, we’re not interested.”
CNN reported that it could take up to two years before a decision is made. Taco John’s has 40 days to file a response, and if no agreement is reached, both sides will present evidence supporting their case. Following that would be a trial and oral arguments.