A bitter row has broken out between two London taco restaurants over the use of the word “taqueria”, with neither side seemingly willing to fold.
Taqueria, which has restaurants in Notting Hill and Exmouth Market, served up a cease and desist order aiming to prevent another Mexican outlet, Sonora Taqueria, from trading under its current name.
In a 20-page letter, lawyers told Sonora’s owners that the use of the word “taqueria” in its branding “constitutes a trademark infringement”, giving a deadline of 21 September for the matter to be resolved, Eater London reported.
However, Sonora, a street food stall based in Hackney, is planning to fight the order, saying it believes that the generic nature of the term “taqueria” does not mean that a “consumer will consider the services that [Sonora is] offering under signs containing taqueria to be provided by, in association with, or under the authorisation of [Taqueria]”.
In fact, its owners Michelle Salazar de la Rocha and Sam Napier told the food industry website that they believe they can fight off the cease and desist charge.
Ismael Munoz, Taqueria’s operations manager, said: “As with all UK trademark registrations, the provisions of the Trademarks Act grant the proprietor the exclusive right to the trademark, and those rights are infringed when the trademark is used in the UK by another undertaking without the proprietor’s consent. As such, Sonora Taqueria Ltd’s use of ‘taqueria’ without Worldwide Taqueria Ltd’s consent constitutes trademark infringement.”
He added: “The trademark ‘taqueria’ has been in use by Taqueria Worldwide Ltd, and its predecessors, for a highly successful restaurant in London since 2005. Through this longstanding use, Worldwide Taqueria Ltd has developed significant goodwill and reputation in the trademark … it will take all steps necessary to maintain the distinctiveness of its trademarks and enforce its rights against infringement by other parties.”
Meanwhile, Sonora’s co-owner Napier argued that the word “taqueria” was descriptive and non-distinctive, meaning “there can be many taquerias, just as there can be many pizzerias”.
He said: “Our reason for fighting it is to allow anyone to accurately and legally use a typical Mexican term. Taqueria is a Mexican word used to describe a place that sells tacos, just as a pizzeria is a place that sells pizzas.
“For Michelle, a Mexican immigrant to the UK, to be told she can’t legally use a word from her own culture by UK nationals is frankly offensive, and the public response so far has shown that offence to have been felt by much of the Mexican community in the UK. We would like to invalidate their copyright claim so that anyone can call their taqueria a taqueria.”
Sonora’s street food stall grew as a Covid business but its owners are now seeking a permanent home for it.
Sonora and Worldwide Taqueria were contacted by the Guardian for comment on the legal dispute.