“Taco Tuesday” isn’t just a catchy phrase to describe a themed dinner night -- it’s also trademarked.
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Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Taco John's — which has nearly 400 locations in 23 states — put its legal stamp on "Taco Tuesday" 30 years ago and has since zinged cease-and-desist letters at offenders far and wide.
Now, a recent example is stirring a debate that hits close to home for the fast-food chain.
Last month, the taco chain sent a warning to a brewery five blocks from its national headquarters for using the term to advertise a taco truck that parks outside its establishment once a week.
"We certainly appreciate our fellow community member's enthusiasm for tacos on Tuesdays, and the term is often used inadvertently," read the letter addressed to "Sir or Madam" at Freedom's Edge Brewing Co. "However, it is still extremely important to us to protect our rights in this mark."
Freedom's Edge took the matter to Facebook, and the comments poured in.
"We have nothing against Taco John's but do find it comical that some person in their corporate office would choose to send a cease and desist to a brewery that doesn't sell or profit from the sales of tacos," the brewery wrote.
Some people rallied to the chain's defense, pointing out that Taco John's itself started as a humble food trailer 50 years ago and legitimately secured the trademark, while others said it's time for Taco John's to lighten up.
Taco John's didn't immediately respond to FOX Business’ request for comment, but the company's former Chief Marketing Director Billie Jo Maara called the term part of the company's "DNA" in a 2016 TEDx talk about "Taco Tuesday."
Taco John's recently sent Freedom's Edge Brewing Co. in Cheyenne a cease-and-desist letter for using "Taco Tuesday" to advertise the taco truck parked outside on Tuesdays. Taco John's has owned the trademark to "Taco Tuesday" since 1989 and calls the
However, one legal expert doubts Taco John’s has much of a case with its “Taco Tuesday” trademark.
Seattle-based attorney Michael Atkins said the term has suffered from “genericide,” meaning it has become too well-known to continue to be identified with a particular company, much like “raisin bran,” “escalator” and “nylon.”
"It's kind of asinine to me think that one particular taco seller, or taco maker, would have monopoly rights over 'Taco Tuesday,'" Atkins said. "It has become such a common phrase that it no longer points to Taco John's and therefore Taco John's doesn't have the right to tell anybody to stop using that."
The company trademarked "Taco Tuesday" in 1989. The trademark applies in every state but New Jersey, where another restaurant already had secured the right to "Taco Tuesday."
Freedom's Edge Brewery co-owner Tim Moore said he had no idea "Taco Tuesday" was trademarked but got a laugh out of the situation. He didn't intend to push back, he said.
Taco John's isn't the only company that has drawn attention for defending a trademark against small businesses. Starbucks made headlines when it went after a Texas bar owner who created a "Star Bock" beer. And Gerber -- owned by Nestle -- has been known to guard its "onesie" trademark against mom-and-pop crafters who design one-piece infant outfits to sell online.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.