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Taco Chon and Taco John's logos
Taco John’s says the name Taco Chon infringes on its trademark. (Submitted images)

Taco John’s sues over Minnesota restaurant’s name

Taco John’s and Taco Chon will square off in federal court over a trademark infringement suit. On April 26, Taco John’s filed suit against a Mexican restaurant based in Minnesota.

Taco John’s is a Mexican fast-food restaurant chain based in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It has 57 locations in Minnesota and 372 total locations. Taco Chon has two locations, in Burnsville and St. Cloud. One of Taco Chon’s locations is 1.2 miles from a Taco John’s restaurant. The other location is 4 miles from a Taco John’s location.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants’ use of the name “Taco Chon” is “an attempt on the goodwill and commercial magnetism that Taco John’s has built up in the market and to free-ride on Taco John’s fame as a preeminent Mexican restaurant brand.”

Taco John’s argues that the use of the restaurant’s name, in connection with quick service Mexican restaurants, confuses prospective purchasers. It has asked for a permanent injunction against use of the name in connection with any Mexican themed restaurant.

Taco John’s became aware of Taco Chon’s name in January 2022, according to the lawsuit. On Feb. 1, 2022, Taco John’s sent defendants a cease and desist letter, demanding Taco Chon stop using its name. Additionally, counsel for Taco John’s spoke to Juan Ramos, who owns Taco Chon restaurants.

Part of the confusion depends on how the name of the restaurant is pronounced. American English speakers would likely pronounce the name of the restaurant as “Taco Chawn,” which would rhyme with Taco John’s.  However, the correct pronunciation is “Taco Shone.” Chon is a nickname for Concepcíon.

The menu offerings also differ, though both restaurants claim to offer Mexican food. Many of the offerings at Taco Chon are not things one could order at Taco John’s. Offerings include Salchi Papas (fried wieners and potatoes), Burger Chon (a burger topped with hotdogs), and Macheton (a fresh corn tortilla filled with mozzarella cheese and other ingredients). Taco John’s is famous for its potato olés, a fried potato covered in bold spices.

At this time, Taco Chon has no legal representation. It has started a GoFundMe to raise money for hiring a lawyer. Ramos has vowed to fight the lawsuit, posting on Taco Chon’s Facebook page on April 28: “Let’s stand united youngsters for the American Dream! Never let someone try to steal it!”

While the court of public opinion has appeared to rule in favor of Taco Chon, casting it as an underdog, counsel for Taco John’s alleges that just because it is a large corporation does not mean it is a Goliath.

Taco John’s is being represented by Robinson Waters & O’Dorisio, P.C., a Denver law firm. Harold R. Bruno III is lead counsel on the case.

Bruno said, “Taco John’s has an important obligation to its franchisees, most of whom are small business owners themselves, to not allow others to use facsimiles of its house mark, Taco John’s. Taco John’s takes no joy in enforcing its trademark rights in court against a small business owner and only does so after other options have been exhausted. Because this is pending litigation, Taco John’s has no further comment on this matter, which Taco John’s hopes will be resolved quickly.”

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