In July 2019, Wyoming-based restaurant Taco John’s sent a cease-and-desist letter to a local brewery five blocks from the restaurant’s national headquarters regarding their use of the US registered trademark TACO TUESDAY[1].  The cease-and-desist letter is not the first Taco John’s has sent as owners of the registered mark for approximately thirty years, but the letter has sparked some controversy given the recent spotlight upon the phrase thanks to social media.

In the letter to Freedom Edge Brewing Company, Taco John’s stated, “we certainly appreciate our fellow community member’s enthusiasm for tacos on Tuesday, and the term is often used inadvertently.  However, it is still extremely important to us to protect our rights in this mark.”  Taco John’s has been criticized for their staunch protection of their TACO TUESDAY mark.  Critics claim that Taco John’s cease-and-desist letters are a symptom of a wider issue, namely, that large companies can prevent small companies from using generic words and phrases through the threat of litigation.

Owners of registered trademarks which become widely used in popular culture are faced with the  task of trying to control misuse lest their trademark become unenforceable.  They write cease-and-desist letters knowing that the letters may be published and taking into account the effect publication will have on their corporate image and goodwill.  These criticisms reach a new dimension in today’s social media driven marketplace, as an issue going “viral” can lead to backlash from the public, much like Taco John’s letter did.  The phrase “Taco Tuesday” has been a trending topic on social media this year thanks to the use of the term by celebrities and influencers alike, including basketball superstar Lebron James.

Summary By: Sam Hargreaves

[1] The Taco John’s registration excepts New Jersey. A Canadian registration of TACO TUESDAY for restaurant services appears to be owned by a different business.


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