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Why Taco Bell’s free taco giveaway is happening everywhere but New Jersey

By Ramishah Maruf, CNN

New York (CNN) — Taco Bell is opening a $5 million taco tab and offering free Doritos Locos Tacos in honor of the “liberation” of the “Taco Tuesday” trademark to customers across the country.

Well, almost everywhere.

The giveaway is valid in 49 states but not in New Jersey, the only place where the Taco Tuesday trademark is not canceled. Taco John’s, the regional taco chain that had “Taco Tuesday” trademarked for 34 years, announced last month that it’s ending its fight in defending the phrase against Taco Bell’s lawyers.

But Gregory’s Restaurant and Bar in Somers Point, New Jersey, owns the trademark in the state, and the family-owned business still plans to hold on to the phrase.

“We’re still keeping it, we’re fighting for it,” said Emma Gregory, who said she is a fifth-generation Gregory family worker at the restaurant.

She said Taco Bell had reached out to the restaurant about the trademark “two, maybe three” weeks ago. Gregory’s said on its website that it has been serving tacos on a Tuesday since 1979 and was granted a service trademark in 1982.

In a statement, Taco Bell said it reached out to Gregory Gregory, the trademark owner, “to see if we could work together and potentially make New Jersey the first state to free Taco Tuesday.”

“We were kicking off conversations when news hit that Taco John’s had abandoned its trademark registration,” the company said. “As a result, he decided to double down on his efforts and opted out of any further conversations with us.”

Taco Bell filed a petition in May with the US Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademark with its rival Taco John’s. A battle over the phrase ensued, but Taco Bell eventually won out.

Taco Bell argued “Taco Tuesday” is a common phrase every restaurant should be able to use.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being the home of Taco Tuesday, but paying millions of dollars to lawyers to defend our mark just doesn’t feel like the right thing to do,” Taco John’s CEO Jim Creel said in a statement last month explaining the decision to give up the trademark.

Trademark attorney Josh Gerben told CNN that Taco John’s decision is “not surprising” because the “phrase became ubiquitous in the marketplace and any attempt to enforce the trademark registration would likely have failed in court.”

Free tacos

Now, to celebrate, Taco Bell is giving away tacos.

“Because now that Taco Tuesday is free* – your tacos should be, too,” the company said in a release. The asterisk led to a caveat that New Jersey residents are out of luck for the Door Dash deal.

The chain is partnering with Door Dash to cover a portion of orders from participating Mexican food vendors they do not have to be Taco Bell restaurants – on Tuesday, September 12th.

Leading up to the event, Taco Bell will offer a free Doritos Locos Taco on Tuesdays (August 15, 22, 29 and September 5). New Jersey residents can still cash in on this offer, the chain said.

CNN has reached out to Taco Bell about its plans for New Jersey.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Jordan Valinsky contributed to this story.

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