Because I grew up in Spokane and then lived in Missoula for several years thereafter, I became familiar with Taco John’s. Although I didn’t eat there on a regular basis, I was still fond of the regional fast food Mexican chain that served its signature Potato Oles.
However, one bit of trivia that I was not aware of at that time was that Taco John’s actually trademarked the phrase “Taco Tuesday.” That’s right, the Patent and Trademark office approved the trademark for Taco John’s back in 1989.
Fast forward almost 35 years later and “Taco Tuesday” is a major cultural event for bars, restaurants, and family dining rooms across the country. In fact, back in September of 2020, I wrote about the insane level the Taco Tuesday phenomenon had reached and even revealed that our family observes its own Taco Tuesday.
Thankfully, Taco John’s isn’t coming after Sid and I with cease and desist letters to halt our usage of the phrase during our Tuesday dinners. The same is true for the local dive near our house that uses the popular phrase every Tuesday when it offers up the greasiest tacos you have ever seen.
But while American homes and local watering holes are seemingly safe from Taco Tuesday trademark enforcement, the same can’t be said for Taco John’s competitors. Needless to say, the worldwide giant of Mexican fast food is counted as a worthy rival and restricted from using the alliterative term. However, Taco Bell is officially sick of it.
Last week, Taco Bell filed a petition of cancellation to the Patent and Trademark office asking for “Taco Tuesday” to no longer be trademarked. Now, I am usually a guy who will side with the underdog to exploit any competitive advantage it might hold over a gigantic corporation, but I must side with Taco Bell on this one.
I think we can all admit that the term “Taco Tuesday” is not overly creative and very much generic. It is a phrase comprised of a popular Mexican food and a day of the week for Pete’s sake. Any kindergartener could naturally piece together the phrase, no marketing background needed. A trademark is issued to help a business distinguish itself from competitors, but other than the ultra amount of media coverage Taco John’s has garnered because of the Taco Bell challenge, no one in the country ever connected “Taco Tuesday” with Taco John’s.
While my argument above is that “Taco Tuesday” should never have received trademark protection in the first place, Taco Bell is arguing its case from a slightly different angle. The main argument of Yum Brands, which owns the Taco Bell brand, is that “Taco Tuesday” has reached a point where it is so common that it is now a “ubiquitous term.” It cites terms such as escalator, aspirin, and yo-yo that used to be trademarked but had the protection removed because of how common and mainstream the words had become.
Taco Tuesday is simply not a Taco John’s “thing.” Let’s use common sense and remove the “Taco Tuesday” trademark. Don’t Blink.