The Fight Over Who Owns “Taco Tuesday” is Over
Good news, taco lovers: You are now free to use the term “Taco Tuesday,” as much as you like, and generally, wherever you like. This was the result of a recent lawsuit between two rival Mexican fast food chains, involving the use of the term—but it’s also an interesting lesson in how trademark rights work.
The History of Taco Tuesday
Although the phrase Taco Tuesday seems to be used by every taco serving restaurant everywhere, it was in fact trademarked in 1989 by a restaurant called Taco John’s.
But about 30 years after the application was granted to Taco John’s, Taco Bell took action. Taco Bell contested the trademark—The trademark for Taco Tuesday given to Taco John’s, Taco Bell alleged, would have prevented any restaurant or business from ever using the Taco Tuesday phrase.
Taco Bell argued that Taco Tuesday could not continue to be trademarked, as it was a common phrase, that was part of our common language, and not specific, or unique enough, to warrant protection. Taco Bell argued it was not a phrase that should be owned or monopolized by any one company.
Taco Bell even went as far as to utilize NBA star LeBron James, who did a series of ads for Taco Bell, asking to “liberate” the term Taco Tuesday.
The Lawsuit is Dropped, Freeing the Phrase
But Taco John’s has now decided that rather than pay to defend the trademark, it has opted to abandon the trademark, thus ending the legal fight between the companies, and allowing Taco Bell, or anybody else, to freely use the term Taco Tuesday.
Losing Trademark Protection
We all likely know that Taco Tuesday is a phrase that has been used by restaurants, in movies, and is almost a part of the public vocabulary.
And that was the problem for Taco Johns—and for any other business that has a trademark that it seeks to protect—when a trademark is used and copied by others, it can lose the trademark protection, and can be challenged in court. When that happens, a mark can become a generic name for a product good or service.
This is one way that a trademark can be challenged, even years after the protection is granted to whomever owns it. In fact, some well known terms that today are open to anybody to use, were once protected trademarks. Words and names like escalator, heroin, thermos, and zipper, among many others, were once protected, but are now part of the public vocabulary.
In some cases, such as that with Taco Tuesday, a trademark becomes so ubiquitous that limiting it to the trademark owner would constrain the market, and stifle competition.
If you own a trademark, it may be distasteful or costly to always sue to stop infringement. But in the end, it may be the best option, to protect your trademark, and to keep it from being challenged years down the road.
Question about your intellectual property, or infringement case? Call the West Palm Beach business lawyers at Pike & Lustig today for help with your business’ legal problems or questions.