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Taco John's trademarked 'Taco Tuesday' in 1989. Now Taco Bell is fighting it

A sign hangs at a Taco Bell on May 23, 2014, in Mount Lebanon, Pa. Declaring a mission to liberate "Taco Tuesday" for all, Taco Bell asked U.S. regulators Tuesday, May 16, 2023, to force Wyoming-based Taco John's to abandon its longstanding claim to the trademark.
Gene J. Puskar
/
AP
A sign hangs at a Taco Bell on May 23, 2014, in Mount Lebanon, Pa. Declaring a mission to liberate "Taco Tuesday" for all, Taco Bell asked U.S. regulators Tuesday, May 16, 2023, to force Wyoming-based Taco John's to abandon its longstanding claim to the trademark.

It's a battle between taco chain restaurants.

Taco John's, which has about 400 locations in 23 states, trademarked "Taco Tuesday" back in 1989.

Now, Taco Bell argues it should be able to get in on using the popular phrase – with no legal ramifications. It filed a petition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday asking for the trademark to be reversed.

"The Registration potentially subjects Taco Bell and anyone else who wants to share tacos with the world to the possibility of legal action or angry letters if they say 'Taco Tuesday' without express permission from Registrant – simply for pursuing happiness on a Tuesday," the company said in the filing. "This violates an American ideal: 'the pursuit of happiness.'"

The company added: "Nobody should have exclusive rights in a common phrase. Can you imagine if we weren't allowed to say 'what's up' or 'brunch?' Chaos."

Taco Bell has more than 7,200 locations in the U.S. and about 1,000 restaurants across 30 countries internationally.

In response to the petition, Taco John's rolled out a two-week long Taco Tuesday deal offering two tacos for $2.

"​​I'd like to thank our worthy competitors at Taco Bell for reminding everyone that Taco Tuesday is best celebrated at Taco John's," Taco John's CEO Jim Creel said.

Creel added, "When it comes right down to it, we're lovers, not fighters, at Taco John's. But when a big, bad bully threatens to take away the mark our forefathers originated so many decades ago, well, that just rings hollow to us. If 'living más' means filling the pockets of Taco Bell's army of lawyers, we're not interested."

Taco Bell is also petitioning against Gregory Hotel, Inc., which holds a trademark for the phrase in New Jersey. Taco John's holds the trademark in all U.S. states except for New Jersey.

"Taco Bell seeks no damages; it simply seeks reason and common sense," Taco Bell said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie