LeBron James loves Taco Tuesday®. But he’s not a fan of that tiny, encircled “R” symbolizing the slogan’s registered trademark.
So, James is ready to battle his first offseason opponent: Taco John’s, a Wyoming-based Mexican restaurant chain with 400 locations that has owned the trademark for “Taco Tuesday” in 49 states since 1989.
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar has joined America’s largest Mexican-inspired fast-food chain Taco Bell in the fight to free the widely used phrase.
Taco Bell announced last week that it filed legal petitions via the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to liberate the phrase for restaurants nationwide by canceling the federal trademark registrations for “Taco Tuesday.” On Monday, shortly before the Lakers’ season came to an end after being swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, James joined the movement.
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“‘Taco Tuesday’ is a tradition that everyone should be able to celebrate. All restaurants, all families, all businesses – everybody,” James said in a statement released by Taco Bell. “‘Taco Tuesdays’ create opportunities that bring people together in so many ways, and it’s a celebration that nobody should own.”
James, however, did once try to own it himself.
In 2019, James began sharing videos on Instagram of his family’s taco nights, even making “It’s Taco Tuesday” T-shirts.
James’ company then attempted to trademark the phrase “Taco Tuesday” but was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which ruled it to be a “commonplace term.” ESPN reported that James sought to monetize the videos by filing the trademark. A spokesman for James told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin at the time that the application was filed "to ensure LeBron cannot be sued for any use of 'Taco Tuesday.'"
James is now starring in a Taco Bell commercial titled “Taco Bleep” – which the company said is “highlighting the absurdity of ‘Taco Tuesday’ being ‘trademarked’ and encouraging the taco community to join together in support of the liberation movement.”
“No more trademarks, no more bleeps, starting right now,” James says in the commercial, which began airing on May 22 and coincides Taco Bell’s recently-launched petition titled “Freeing Taco T***day.”
Don’t expect Taco John’s to bend the knee to King James and liberate “Taco Tuesday.” The company takes pride in its title of trademark holder -- even if its claim to have coined the phrase isn’t entirely accurate and it only secured the trademark when its original holder failed to renew before the deadline.
“Ever hear of Taco Tuesday®? We started it! We even trademarked it,” it says on Taco John’s website. “That’s how seriously we take tacos.”
Taco John’s CEO Jim Creel responded to Taco Bell’s lawsuit last week.
“When it comes right down to it, we’re lovers, not fighters, at Taco John’s®,” Creel said in a statement. “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.”