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Taco Bell’s battle to free the ‘Taco Tuesday’ trademark is officially over

Posted at 11:59 AM, Oct 24, 2023

NEW YORK — Taco Bell has won its fight over the “Taco Tuesday” trademark in all 50 states now that lone holdout — a restaurant in New Jersey — has “parted ways” with the term.

The chain’s months-long efforts to cancel usage of the trademark ended Tuesday, with Taco Bell saying that its “ambitious goal has been met” after Gregory’s Restaurant and Bar in Somers Point, New Jersey, forfeited its trademark this week after more than four decades of owning it. Taco Bell didn’t reveal if a financial settlement was involved.

“The response we’ve seen over the last six months since taking action to free ‘Taco Tuesday’ is the exact reason we felt it was worth freeing it in the first place,” Taco Bell’s chief marketing officer Taylor Montgomery told CNN.

Taco Bell scored a significant win in July when Taco John’s, a smaller regional chain, abandoned its trademark registration in the other 49 states because it didn’t want to pay the legal fees that come with a fight against its larger rival. However, Gregory’s owners proved harder to persuade, and they said that Taco Bell made them “look bad” during an August giveaway of free tacos.

“For Gregory’s Restaurant and Bar, ‘Taco Tuesday’ brought a lot of pride over the past 40 years,” said co-owner Gregory Gregory. “Relinquishing the trademark registration doesn’t change that, but it does allow others in New Jersey the same opportunity to build their own traditions and help spread Taco Tuesdays throughout New Jersey.”

Forfeiting the trademark was the “right move,” according to trademark attorney Josh Gerben, who is not involved in the case. He told CNN that Gregory’s legal fees would’ve been “extreme burden to bear for any small business,” estimating it to be at least $100,000.

“In this case, the writing was on the wall,” Gerben said. “The chances that the Gregory’s could have successfully defended the cancellation action against the ‘Taco Tuesday’ mark were extremely low. Therefore, I am not surprised that the Gregory’s waived the white flag and surrendered its trademark registration.”

Gregory’s surrender marks the final hurdle of Taco Bell’s legal battle of eliminating the trademark from its two holders. The chain said it fought to cancel the trademark because the commonly used phrase “should be freely available to all who make, sell, eat and celebrate tacos.” The “full removal” of the legalities surrounding the “Taco Tuesday” trademark means that restaurants can use the term “without fear of legal repercussion,” Taco Bell said.

David Gibbs, CEO of Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum Brands, said in an August earnings call that the “campaign created massive brand buzz with engagement and mentions in one week for ‘Taco Tuesday’ liberation surpassing the entirety of the highly successful Mexican pizza relaunch last year.”

Sales at Taco Bell US locations open at least a year jumped 4% during the second quarter.

Taco Bell is giving New Jersey members of its app-based loyalty program free Doritos Locos Tacos on November 21 with no purchase necessary to celebrate the surrender of its smaller competitors.