Taco Time? Why You Might have to Reschedule Taco Tuesday
Love tacos? Enjoy alliteration? Well hold the sour cream because the trademark of “Taco Tuesday” has an owner. Taco John’s, a Cheyenne, Wyoming-based fast-food restaurant featuring Mexican-styled cuisine, is that owner in the majority of the nation.
Taco John’s first registered the trademark in the phrase “Taco Tuesday” in 1989 after it was successfully incorporated into a marketing program. Taco John’s was unable to receive federal trademark protection in every state because Greg Gregory, a New Jersey restaurateur, acquired the right to use the phrase before Taco John’s trademark was registered and thus had superior common law rights to the mark in New Jersey.
Not unlike the “Happy Birthday” song, which entered the public domain a couple of years ago, many people may not be aware that the phrase “Taco Tuesday” actually has an owner. But unlike the “Happy Birthday” song, using the phrase “Taco Tuesday” could and likely would get you into trouble if you tried to incorporate it into your restaurant’s marketing, as it is still a protected piece of intellectual property.
Even though the phrase “Taco Tuesday,” is widely used across society and was even featured in “The Lego Movie,” Taco John’s is dedicated to enforcing its intellectual property rights in the phrase so that it does not enter the public domain. In a 2016 article, Billie Jo Waara, the Chief Marketing Officer for Taco John’s at the time, told Priceonomics that,
[i]t’s just unfathomable to us not to protect [Taco Tuesday].”
Ms. Waara also said that “Taco Tuesday” is part of Taco John’s DNA. Taco John’s has demonstrated this dedication by sending cease and desist letters to hundreds of restaurant owners and managers over the past two decades.
If you are thinking about joining, or are already part of, the expanding list of nearby restaurants that primarily sell Mexican-style food – beware! Taco John’s will likely send you a cease and desist letter if you try to get away with incorporating the phrase “Taco Tuesday,” which may result in a lawsuit.
This cautionary tale is relevant to all business owners who may be unaware that a catchy phrase they want to use actually belongs to someone else. It is advised that business owners consult with a trademark attorney before attempting to incorporate material that may be subject to intellectual property protection into their businesses.
For more information on what is in the public domain, check out this blog post.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be legal advice and is meant to be for educational or informational purposes only. Please do not use the article or contents of the article without permission. For legal advice and questions, please contact attorney Vincent LoTempio.