Q: The Wyoming-based chain Taco John's sent a cease-and-desist letter to locally owned Iguana Mexican Grill demanding that it stop using the trademarked phrase "Taco Tuesday." Can a company enforce a trademark on a phrase that appears to be used in restaurants and homes across the country?
A: If Taco John's has a legitimate trademark on the phrase, they certainly have the right to take legal action to enforce it. Can they do it successfully? The results of a Google search for "Taco Tuesday" lead me to believe they can't hope to have much of an impact on a national scale, and they'll never be able to control what customers think or say, or, as they're learning the hard way this week, tweet.
Q: The local social media world reacted with anger and ridicule toward Taco John's. Does the existence of social media change the pitfalls of how a corporation interacts with other businesses and communities?
A: Without question. In today's wired environment, businesses would be wise to evaluate every piece of information intended for distribution, including communication issued on behalf of the company by a third party (i.e. legal documents), for its potential impact on intended and unintended audiences. In this case, a simple phone call would have effected the change they wanted without sparking the firestorm of negative reactions from the online community. Positive and negative words and deeds can now reach the masses immediately and unfiltered through the power of social media. This is just one of the many recent examples of why businesses need to be more careful about what they say and do.