The 'Taco Tuesday' trademark battle is officially over

The bar that owned the registration in New Jersey gave up its hold on the phrase, officially ending Taco Bell’s campaign to “free” the trademark.
Taco Bell petition
Taco Bell's petition to cancel the Taco Tuesday registration ultimately succeeded. | Photo courtesy of Taco Bell.

Nobody holds the trademark to the phrase “Taco Tuesday” now.

Gregory’s Restaurant and Bar, the Somers Point, N.J., hotel restaurant that held the trademark in that state for 30 years, relinquished the right to the mark last week, officially ending Taco Bell’s campaign to free the phrase for broader use.

The decision came months after Taco John’s, which owned the mark in the other 49 states, gave up its right to use the phrase, apparently after deciding that it would not succeed in defending the trademark.

It also ends one of the strangest marketing campaigns in recent history. Taco Bell ignited the campaign to “free” the trademark from its two holders, arguing that the phrase had become a commonly used term and that they did not do enough to protect the mark from that broad use.

Taco Bell not only filed to end the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, it kicked off a marketing effort, with billboards and advertisements mocking the trademarked phrase. The company even enlisted LeBron James, whose own effort to trademark the phrase failed because the mark was already owned, to assist with the campaign.

“When we set out to free Taco Tuesday, we did it for all who make, sell, eat and celebrate tacos,” Taco Bell Chief Global Brand and Strategy Officer and incoming CEO Sean Tresvant said in a statement.

To be sure, Taco Bell has used the phrase frequently in the six months since the campaign began, with free tacos and a $5 million “Taco Tab” with DoorDash to cover a portion of orders at some 20,000 Mexican restaurants. And the end of the effort also comes with an offer, free Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos on Nov. 21 through the Taco Bell app in New Jersey.

Taco Bell also made a $40,000 donation to CORE, Children of Restaurant Employees, in response to a challenge from Taco John’s.

The company declared that the end of the battle “hails a new era for restaurants nationwide.”

“Now taco shops big and small can ring in Taco Tuesday with their patrons however they see fit without fear of legal repercussion,” the company said.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Restaurants have a hot opportunity to improve their reputation as employers

Reality Check: New mandates for protecting workers from dangerous on-the-job heat are about to be dropped on restaurants and other employers. The industry could greatly help its labor plight by acting first.


Some McDonald's customers are doubling up on the discounts

The Bottom Line: In some markets, customers can get the fast-food chain's $5 value meal for $4. The situation illustrates a key rule in the restaurant business: Customers are savvy and will find loopholes.


Ignore the Red Lobster problem. Sale-leasebacks are not all that bad

The decade-old sale-leaseback at the seafood chain has raised questions about the practice. But experts say it remains a legitimate financing option for operators when done correctly.


More from our partners