Trademark Infringement Tuesday

Although "Taco Tuesday" promotions are fairly common, a fast-food taco restaurant in Wyoming owns the trademark to the phrase and regularly protects it to the dismay of some consumers.
April 5, 2017

“Taco Tuesday,” the beloved weekly holiday, is apparently not supposed to be as widely celebrated as it currently is. In 49 states, the phrase “Taco Tuesday” is actually a trademark owned by a Wyoming-based taco chain, Taco John’s.[1] According to “Taco John’s lore,” a franchisee in Minnesota invented the term in the early 1980s, when he began offering two tacos for 99 cents in an effort to boost sales on a slow day.[2] Then, in 1989, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted Taco John’s application to trademark “Taco Tuesday.”[3]

Ever since, Taco John’s has notoriously and shamelessly protected the trademark, regularly sending cease and desist letters to restaurants around the country that try to partake in the early-week festivities.[4] Although this may explain why major chains such as Taco Bell and Jack in the Box do not offer any “Taco Tuesday” promotions[5], many disagree with Taco John’s actions, labeling them as “trademark bullying.”[6] In fact, when a Wisconsin restaurant agreed to change the name of its “Taco Tuesday” special, fans on the restaurant’s Facebook page suggested the name be changed to, among other suggestions, “Cease-and-Desist Taco Special,” “Trademark Tyrant Taco Day!” and “The Tuesday Special That Shall Not Be Named.”[7]

Even amidst this backlash, Taco John’s claims it would be “unfathomable to [them] to not protect it.”[8] This is understandable, considering if the chain does not continue to try to protect the trademark, the trademark will become “generic” and thus part of the public domain.[9] Some may argue that Taco John’s is already losing the battle, as the phrase is becoming more widespread and less attributable to Taco John’s[10]; even in 1997, a waitress at one of the restaurants that previously defended a “Taco Tuesday” lawsuit from Taco John’s said, in regards to the litigation, “Give me a break. Everybody has Taco Tuesdays.”[11] However, Taco John’s does not seem particularly discouraged, stating that they “understand that it’s prolific and shareable. But that’s why it’s great.”[12]


[1] Craig Hlavaty, The Term ‘Taco Tuesday’ is Trademarked by the Taco John’s Chain from Wyoming, Houston Chron. (last updated Mar. 20, 2017, 03:33 PM), http://www.chron.com/business/article/The-term-Taco-Tuesday-is-copyrighted-by-a-Taco-11014084.php.

[2] Alex Mayyasi, The Trademarking of “Taco Tuesday”, Priceonomics (last updated Sept. 23, 2016), https://priceonomics.com/the-trademarking-of-taco-tuesday/.

[3] Id.

[4] See Mike Pomranz, A Wyoming Chain Owns the Phrase ‘Taco Tuesday’, Food & Wine (Apr. 3, 2017), http://www.foodandwine.com/news/taco-tuesday-trademark-taco-johns.

[5] Id.

[6] Timothy Geigner, Taco John’s Continues to Wage a Long-Lost Trademark War to Keep ‘Taco Tuesday’ from Becoming Generic, techdirt (Oct. 3, 2016, 11:07 PM), https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160926/06232335628/taco-johns-continues-to-wage-long-lost-trademark-war-to-keep-taco-tuesday-becoming-generic.shtml.

[7] Id.

[8] Mayassi, supra note 2.

[9] Pomranz, supra note 4.

[10] See Geigner, supra note 6.

[11] E. Scott Reckard, ‘Taco Tuesday’ Trademark Tussle, L.A. Times (July 23, 1997), http://articles.latimes.com/1997/jul/23/business/fi-15401; see also Mayassi, supra note 2.

[12] Mayassi, supra note 2.