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LeBron James’ ‘Taco Tuesday’, and the oddest trademark attempts in sports

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Do you like Taco Tuesday? So does LeBron. So much he wants to own it.

Six tacos arrayed on a board with tomatoes resting at the end of each side.

Taco Tuesday is an institution, and LeBron James loved the weekly culinary celebration so much he’s trying to trademark it.

James’ company “LBJ Trademarks” filed paperwork with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to own the term “Taco Tuesday”, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. While James didn’t have immediate plans to take action on the term, he reportedly wanted to “keep his options open” for future business moves after publishing a series of popular Taco Tuesday videos. Considering literally every town in the United States and beyond has at least one restaurant with a Taco Tuesday, the backlash has already begun.

Nobody knows where Taco Tuesday originated, but the first trademark of the term was issued in New Jersey in 1982, followed by Wyoming-based chain Taco John’s, which filed for a trademark in 1989. However, the current trademark isn’t very strong, according to Priceonomics, because Taco John’s has not adequately defended the phrase as unique to its restaurant — especially considering the ubiquity of Taco Tuesday has made it a generic phrase.

This is what made James’ trademark attempt so bizarre. By definition, a trademark is a name or phrase which makes the holder’s services uniquely distinguishable from others with the same source. LeBron James does not sell tacos. Nobody would hear “Taco Tuesday” and link it to any of LeBron’s holdings. And if an actual taco restaurant can’t make the case for a trademark, chances are James can’t either.

The trademark office agreed, and rejected his claim. According to ESPN, the office said: “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.” So Taco Tuesday is safe.

But this wasn’t the first weird trademark case and won’t be the last. Here are a few that make Taco Tuesday seem downright rational.

Alabama tries to trademark houndstooth ... yeah, the pattern

In 2013, the University of Alabama tried to trademark houndstooth, the clothing pattern made famous by Bear Bryant’s head. Despite being over 2,000 years old, a court actually sided with Alabama in its fight against a clothing company “Houndstooth Mafia” over use of the pattern.

It wasn’t until 2016 that a court overturned the school’s right to claim the pattern.

Cadbury fights to trademark the color purple

Pantone 2685C to be precise, but this battle over a specific shade of purple lasted for decades. Granted, it is the company’s signature color, but it’s also just the color purple. It wasn’t until early 2019 that Cadbury finally gave up its battle to own the color.

Unicorn darts trademarks the smell of old beer

This one dates back to 1994, and it’s a delight. Unicorn, one of the largest producers of darts in the world, said its product was so synonymous with the smell of stale beer that it wanted to trademark the scent to add to its darts so the smell would be left in the air after flight.

And, yes, this trademark was granted.

Syracuse’s failed attempt to trademark orange

Syracuse wanted the rights to both the color orange and the name orange, which resulted in a long lawsuit before eventually being shot down.

Katy Perry’s fight to own “Left Shark”

Following Perry’s viral Super Bowl performance in 2015, she tried to trademark the name “Left Shark”, as well as the costume. This was, thankfully, shot down.

Nintendo trademarks “It’s on like Donkey Kong”

Despite being a decades-old saying, Nintendo managed to successfully trademark “It’s on like Donkey Kong” as a phrase. Now if you think it is on, it cannot be on to the amount Donkey Kong would be on.

Unless you want to get a letter from Nintendo.

Tom Brady tries to copyright “Tom Terrific.”

This one is great because Brady got immediate blow back from fans of Mets’ pitcher Tom Seaver, only to say he was trying to gain possession of the nickname so people wouldn’t associate him with it.

Either way it was shot down, but it’s still hilarious. It’s refreshing to see Brady lose something now and then.