Taco Bell wants to cancel its rival's trademark for 'Taco Tuesday'

The fast-food Mexican chain has petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to end Taco John’s registration for the Taco Tuesday trademark, which it has owned for years.
Taco Tuesday
Taco Bell has petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to end the trademark to "Taco Tuesday."

Taco Bell apparently wants to use the phrase “Taco Tuesday,” but first it has to get past the rival that owns the trademark to the phrase.

The quick-service Mexican chain has filed petitions with the U.S. Patent and Trade Office to cancel trademarks to the phrase “Taco Tuesday,” currently owned by its rival, Taco John’s, in 49 states. Gregory Hotel owns the trademark for the phrase in New Jersey.

Unsurprisingly, the company released all of this on Tuesday.

“People like tacos on Tuesdays,” Taco Bell said in its petition. “They just do. It’s even fun to say: ‘Taco Tuesday.’ Tacos have a unique ability to bring people together and bring joy to their lives on an otherwise mediocre day of the week. But since 1989, entities associated with [Taco John’s] have owned a federal trademark registration for ‘Taco Tuesday.’ Not cool.”

Taco John’s countered by extending its Taco Tuesday deal, two tacos for $2, every day through the end of the month, at least for its loyalty members on its mobile app. “I’d like to thank our worthy competitors at Taco Bell for reminding everyone that Taco Tuesday is best celebrated at Taco John’s,” CEO Jim Creel said in a statement, noting “No más, por favor,” on Taco Bell’s filing.

Taco John’s ended up with the Taco Tuesday trademark because one of its franchisees, Dave Olson out of St. Paul, Minn., started pricing two tacos for 99 cents to drum up business on a poor selling day, Tuesday. It quickly became one of the best selling days of the week, the brand adopted it chainwide, and in 1989 trademarked the phrase Taco Tuesday.

(Creel discusses Taco Tuesday on this episode of the RB podcast A Deeper Dive.)

Taco John’s will defend the trademark, as it did when NBA star LeBron James tried to register the trademark himself. But it now finds itself defending the mark from one of its competitors.

Taco Bell is the country’s fourth largest restaurant chain, with nearly $14 billion in U.S. sales and 7,200 locations. Taco John’s unit count is just 5% of that and it has system sales of $424 million, according to data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. That gives this particular battle a David v. Goliath feel.

Still, the Yum Brands-owned Taco Bell argues that “Taco Tuesday” is a common phrase. “Nobody should have exclusive rights on a common phrase,” the company said in its filing. “Can you imagine if we weren’t allowed to say ‘what’s up’ or ‘brunch?’ Chaos.”

But, in typical Taco Bell fashion, the filing is over the top.

“Taco Bell believes ‘Taco Tuesday’ is critical to everyone’s Tuesday,” the company said. “To deprive anyone of saying ‘Taco Tuesday,’ be it Taco Bell or anyone who provides tacos to the world, is like depriving the world of sunshine itself.”

Taco Bell insists that it is not trying to take over the trademark. “Taco Bell is trying to get rid of the trademark registrations,” the company said in an FAQ section on its website. “Taco Bell believes that all across the nation should be able to celebrate Taco Tuesday, without fear of consequences.”

The company even has a petition. Alas, as of late morning Tuesday, there were only 23 signatures.

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