The Case of the “Taco Tuesday” Trademark

The Case of the “Taco Tuesday” Trademark

taco Tuesday trademark

Tex-Mex restaurant behemoth Taco Bell has stuck up for the little guy this week—or have they?—by taking the smaller American chain Taco John’s to task over the latter’s trademark of the term “Taco Tuesday.” As someone who’s thrown together a weeknight taco feast or two in my time, I had no idea the phrase was trademarked—I just thought it belonged to everybody, like “Happy New Year” or knock-knock jokes. Not so, said Taco Bell, who succeeded in their petition to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to release Taco John’s 34-year trademark.

Their rationale, acceded to by Taco John’s, was that:

“‘Taco Tuesday’ should belong to all who make, sell, eat, and celebrate tacos. In fact, the very essence of ‘Taco Tuesday’ is to celebrate the commonality amongst people of all walks of life who come together every week to celebrate something as simple, yet culturally phenomenal, as the taco. How can anyone Live Más if they’re not allowed to freely say ‘Taco Tuesday?’ It’s pure chaos.”

Taco John’s—founded as a taco stand in 1969 in Cheyenne WY, by the Korean War vet John Turner—agreed to release the trademark, mostly because fighting over it with Taco Bell in court would cost over 1$ million USD. Current CEO Jim Creel pledged instead to give $40,000 USD to the charity Children of Restaurant Employees, which “supports restaurant workers with children by providing financial relief when either the employee, spouse or a child faces a life-altering health crisis, injury, death or natural disaster,” and has challenged Taco Bell to contribute as well.

There’s something very late-capitalist End-Times-y about this whole thing; I’m not sure Taco Bell isn’t going to quietly file for a Taco Tuesday trademark in eight months or so once this has all died down! (Let alone the absurdity of a CEO ostentatiously donating to a charity that supports his exact workers when… their workplace fails to pay them enough to weather a devastating injury or crisis? In a country where access to health insurance, and therefore care, is controlled by employers, no less!). The freedom to declare our own Taco Tuesdays was one many of us didn’t know we lacked; I’m not sure I feel the “appropriate” gratitude to a corporate giant for bestowing it upon us. What this has sparked in me is a need to make a delicious taco dinner sometime soon—on a Tuesday, or not!