LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers superstar, tried unsuccessfully to trademark the term “Taco Tuesday,” reports ESPN. According to his teammates, King James still got he wanted from the application process. So, what exactly happened here?
‘Taco Tuesday,’ a common term
The application, filed by James’ company LBJ Trademarks, got denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). According to a tweet from Josh Gerben of the Gerben Law Firm on September 11, 2019, the refusal “finds that TACO TUESDAY is a ‘commonplace message’ and therefore fails to function as a trademark. #TacoTuesday.”
The USPTO wrote, “The applied-for mark is a commonplace term, message, or expression widely used by a variety of sources that merely conveys an ordinary, familiar, well-recognized concept or sentiment message.” The video published with the tweet explains that the primary reason for the denial was the term’s wide use. When a term like “Taco Tuesday” is used by so many companies, people, and places, it can’t be trademarked.
Many who knew of the filing predicted this outcome. With many bars and restaurants using the term for weekly specials, it didn’t seem likely that a single entity would get a trademark approved.
Why did LeBron James file for a trademark he wouldn’t get?
The application was filed so that LeBron couldn’t be sued for using the term “Taco Tuesday,” a spokesman for James told ESPN. The spokesman explained that the ruling was significant. The U.S. government essentially stated that someone can’t be sued for using it.
According to Lakers Nation, James is a diligent businessman and demonstrated this in the filing. With a number of business ventures to his credit, James has even talked about owning an NBA team in the future. With the filing, he sought to add social media sensation to his growing brand.
Citing examples of restaurants that have used the term, the USPTO demonstrated that the term is widely used to show enthusiasm for tacos and promoting them on a “dedicated weekday.” The USPTO ruling, according to James’ spokesman, will protect not just James but anyone who might try to exploit “Taco Tuesday” for business reasons.
But does it protect businesses? Interestingly, a Cheyenne, Wyoming restaurant called Taco John’s holds a trademark for “Taco Tuesday” granted more than three decades ago. According to the Los Angeles Times, the restaurant has always aggressively guarded what it considers its intellectual property. How the ruling impacts their claim remains to be seen.
A social media sensation
During the offseason, James began sharing videos of his own family’s taco nights on Instagram. The popular videos quickly grew into a social media sensation. In the hilarious videos, James yells the phrase and gets his entire family in on it. Bronny James, his eldest son, posted his own videos doing the “Taco Tuesday” call.
As the videos gained views, James made “It’s Taco Tuesday” t-shirts. Even Anthony Davis, a forward for the Lakers, made a guest appearance for one of the videos.
In filing to trademark “Taco Tuesday” in August, James sought to monetize the videos. In the application received from LBJ Trademarks, the goods and services tied to the trademark would involve advertising and marketing services from indirect methods of marketing communications. Those methods listed were blogging, inquiry marketing, internet marketing, mobile marketing, search engine marketing, social media, and other passive sharable, and viral forms of communication.
Online entertainment services like social media posts around current events, entertainment, pop culture, and sports were also listed. A website offering non-downloadable videos and podcasting was also detailed on the application. Maybe in filing for the trademark, James unwittingly stumbled upon the opportunity to do something good. It will be interesting to see if he ultimately freed the term “Taco Tuesday” for use by everyone.