The Philadelphia Inquirer
Declaring a mission to liberate “Taco Tuesday” for all, Taco Bell is asking U.S. regulators to force both Taco John’s, a restaurant chain, and Gregory’s, a fourth-generation Somers Point bar and restaurant, to abandon their long-standing claims to the trademark.
Reached on Wednesday, Gregory Gregory, owner of Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar, was not exactly shaking in his boots. Gregory’s says it coined “Taco Tuesday” in 1979 and received a trademark for New Jersey in 1982.
“First off, my feelings are hurt because we are the people that coined the phrase ‘Taco Tuesday’ long before Taco John’s,” said Gregory, who said his phone has been ringing off the hook with people indignant over this power play by Taco Bell.
“It’s David and Goliath for me, and Taco John’s fighting the bigger guy.”
Too many businesses and others refer to “Taco Tuesday” for Taco John’s to be able to have exclusive rights to the phrase, Taco Bell says in a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filing that was, of course, dated Tuesday. Gregory’s holds a trademark, but only for New Jersey.
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Gregory said the bar was still using its original recipe, which includes a salsa recipe ripped from the pages of Playboy. He said he got the idea from the food court of the original Gallery in Philadelphia, when he noticed the taco stand was always the busiest.
Favorite neighborhood haunts in suburbia are usually ones where everybody knows your name no matter what time of year it is.
The bar is still selling discounted tacos on Tuesdays, two for $2.50, and Thursdays.
It’s the latest development in a long-running beef over “Taco Tuesday” that even included NBA star LeBron James making an unsuccessful attempt to claim the trademark in 2019.
Gregory’s has long been caught in the middle. It started using “Taco Tuesday” in 1979 and registered its trademark in 1982, but did not submit evidence that the trademark was being used. Just as the Patent and Trademark Office canceled the registration in 1989, the Wyoming-based Taco John’s, which had started using the phrase “Taco Twosday” (later “Taco Tuesday”) in the early 1980s, swooped in and was awarded the trademark.
Litigation followed, and Gregory’s won the right to use “Taco Tuesday” in New Jersey while Taco John’s — whose 370 locations are mainly in the West and Midwest — has the rights for the rest of the United States.
Now, Taco Bell, with more than 7,200 locations around the world, wants to free the trademark.
“Taco Bell believes ‘Taco Tuesday’ is critical to everyone’s Tuesday. To deprive anyone of saying ‘Taco Tuesday’ — be it Taco Bell or anyone who provides tacos to the world — is like depriving the world of sunshine itself,” the Taco Bell filing reads.
SOMERS POINT — The weather couldn’t have cooperated any better Saturday for Bayfest.
Taco John’s actively polices its trademark. In 2019, the company sent a letter to a brewery just five blocks from its corporate headquarters, warning it to stop using “Taco Tuesday” to promote a taco truck parked outside on Tuesdays.
Gregory said his patent and litigations attorneys were watching, but that they would probably “keep our powder dry” and enjoy the attention.
Defending a trademark is key to maintaining claim to it, and the letter was just one example of Taco John’s telling restaurants far and wide that nobody else may use “Taco Tuesday.”
Taco John’s responded to Taco Bell’s filing by announcing a new two-week Taco Tuesday promotion, with a large side of riposte.
“I’d like to thank our worthy competitors at Taco Bell for reminding everyone that Taco Tuesday is best celebrated at Taco John’s,” CEO Jim Creel said in an emailed statement. “We love celebrating Taco Tuesday with taco lovers everywhere, and we even want to offer a special invitation to fans of Taco Bell to liberate themselves by coming by to see how flavorful and bold tacos can be at Taco John’s all month long.”
Yet “Taco Tuesday” has such widespread use and recognition these days — as a generic way of promoting tacos on a specific day of the week — that Taco John’s still can’t claim exclusive ownership, Taco Bell contends in its filing.
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“‘Taco Tuesday’ is a common phrase. 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,” reads Taco Bell’s document, written with a dollop of spicy marketing language.
The Patent and Trademark Office may have already hinted about the future of “Taco Tuesday” with its ruling on the request by James. The office turned him down, saying the phrase was a “commonplace term” that couldn’t be trademarked.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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