LeBron James is a massive National Basketball Association (NBA) star in the United States. Currently playing for the LA Lakers, LeBron James is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time.

According to Forbes, LeBron James is worth $450 million. And while $270 million of this can be accounted for by his basketball salary, the rest comes from his enormously successful endorsements. His portfolio runs to a lifetime advertising deal with Nike (worth a cool billion) and he has stakes in Blaze Pizza, Liverpool Football Club and Beats Electronics.

Luke Rehbein - LeBorn James trade mark taco tuesday

Why does LeBron James want to trade mark ‘Taco Tuesday’?

And proof that LeBron James is always on the lookout for his next business venture, he’s now attempting to trade mark a phrase he has made his own on social media. ‘Taco Tuesday’ has become an unofficial trade mark of LeBron, with his social media posts going viral on more than one occasion. More than half a million people have watched this YouTube clip, for example.

On 15 August 2019, LeBron James made his first move to trade mark this phrase in order to capitalise on his use of it. His company, LBJ Trademarks LLC, filed a trade mark request with the US Patents and Trade Mark Office (USPTO). But for all his celebrity clout and business acumen, securing the trade mark may not be as simple as LeBron James would like.

Luke Rehbein - Taco John's trade mark taco tuesday

Image credit: Ken Wolter

Trade mark owned by Taco John’s restaurant

In an interview with Yahoo Finance, trade mark attorney David Leichtman points out that the trade mark registration for ‘Taco Tuesday’ is owned by someone else. Fast food restaurant chain Taco John’s actually owns the phrase, and have done since they first filed in 1989. Since then, the chain has fought off all kinds of attempts to use the trade mark.

However, as trade marks can exist for the same intellectual property across separate industries, the basketball player will probably be able to use the expression. But, according to the trade mark attorney, he won’t be able to own the popular phrase. As ‘Taco Tuesday’ is a term used by many people across all kinds of sectors, it’s almost impossible to obtain complete protection from the USPTO.

The filing with the USPTO shows that LeBron James’ application for ‘Taco Tuesday’ shows that he is going in a different direction to the restaurant chain. His proposal for the trade mark includes separate classifications. These include “online entertainment services and social media posts in the field of sports, entertainment, current events and popular culture.” Other classifications include “podcasting services”, clearly indicating what LeBron James would like to do with the trade mark, should he be granted it.

The trade mark for Taco John’s restaurant is strictly limited to the hospitality sector, and as LeBron James is attempting to do something different, this could go in his favour. However, Mr Leichtman says that as restaurants, hotels and bars are reasonably expected to conduct their own social media marketing, including on TV and YouTube, this clashes with LeBron’s trade mark attempt.

Luke Rehbein - LeBorn James trade mark taco tuesday 2

Ball in LeBron’s court – for now

Does this mean LeBron James will never legally own the phrase ‘Taco Tuesday’? According to Mr Leichtman, this is most likely the case: “He can probably use it, but what he probably can’t do is protect against other people form also using it.”

And judging by the latest addition to the live application, on 11 September 2019, the USPTO may just agree. The official update shows that a non-final Office action has gone to LeBron James’ company, which is a letter asking for more information and/or making an initial refusal. It seems the ball is in LeBron’s court on this one for now.