I know today is Thursday, but I am a taco fan. Just be careful what you call your Tuesday evening taco promotion.
A couple of nights ago, I saw what I believe was my first Taco John’s commercial. In it, they were making a big deal about how they loved Taco Tuesday® so much that they trademarked the term and were throwing the ® symbol all over the screen. I would post the video, but I’ve been unable to find it (if anyone out there finds a link, let me know). I did find another Taco Tuesday® commercial from them, but it didn’t have the same gusto (and trademark reference).
The commercial got me curious, so I checked the USPTO website and casually perused the internet. It is true, they registered Taco Tuesday® way back in 1989, and claiming first use back to 1979. They also registered what I can only assume is the somewhat less popular Wake Up Wednesday!® in 2009. There are also a couple of Thirsty Thursday registrations out there, but none by Taco John’s.
I feel safe in saying that Taco John’s probably didn’t do a very good job policing the mark, hence the new commercial with the ® littered throughout. I’ve been to my fair share of Tuesday evening taco promotions, all using the registered term, but this week was the first I had heard it in connection with Taco John’s. Granted, Taco John’s aren’t in every state, but the term is used pretty frequently and I would venture to say that most of us have heard it used by various food establishments.
It looks like they have realized the importance of policing the mark recently, as there are a few articles out there about cease and desist letters sent out over use of Taco Tuesday®. In Madison, Wisconsin a restaurant stopped using the term after 9 years of use when it received a cease and desist from Taco John’s in 2014. A similar thing happened in 2010 in Oklahoma City.
I wonder if concurrent use registration held by a restaurant in New Jersey that issued in 2009 had anything to do with it. At any rate, that restaurant now has the registration for New Jersey, while Taco John’s has it in the rest of the U.S.
I don’t know if Taco John’s coined the original Taco Tuesday® as they claim on their site (they also claim to be the original fish taco). But this is a pretty clear example of why a trademark holder needs to police their mark. Now that many people are used to the concept, Taco John’s is getting some bad publicity as attempts to enforce its rights. Had they done so from the beginning, perhaps most people would associate Taco Tuesday® with Taco John’s instead of the Mexican place down the street. Now they have to figure out how to avoid looking like the cold corporation attacking your favorite neighborhood Tuesday night Margarita and Taco joint. Perhaps that’s why they went with the commercial overloaded with ®’s.