A London restaurant friend served up the excellent Taqueria Sonora, but still included the use of the word “taqueria” in its name and identity. Worldwide Taqueria, the trading name of Taqueria, which operates two London restaurants in Notting Hill and Exmouth Market, alleges Sonora’s use of the term constitutes trademark infringement.
On September 6, attorneys served a 20-page letter on behalf of Taqueria Sonora’s owners. The letter, seen by Eater London, outlined the technical details of the alleged infringement of Taqueria’s trademark, in addition to all instances of the alleged infringement. There were also recommendations for a solution with a deadline of September 21 for a response.
During a call September 12, Sonora owners Michelle Salazar de la Rocha and Sam Napier told Eater London that they believed they could take action against the charges. They consider that the generic nature of the term ‘Taqueria’ means that its use does not necessarily mean, as Taqueria claims, that a ‘consumer views the services as such [Sonora is] Offered under signs containing TAQUERIA provided by, in connection with, or authorized by [Taqueria].”
Taqueria is owned by Trent Alexander Ward and Daniele Benatoff, directors in numerous companies, according to public records. The first location in Notting Hills Westbourne Grove opened in 2005; the successor at Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell opened in 2021. Taqueria, the restaurant, grew out of a street food stand that doubled as a retailer for Mexican ingredients and cookware retailer Cool Chile Co. This brand still exists but is no longer associated with the restaurant.
In response to a request for comment on the letter sent to Sonora, Ismael Munoz, Taqueria Operations Director, said: “As with all trademark registrations in the UK, the provisions of the Trademark Act grant the proprietor exclusive right in the mark and those rights are infringed if the mark is used in the UK by another company without the consent of the proprietor.
“Therefore, Sonora Taqueria Ltd’s use of TAQUERIA without the consent of Worldwide Taqueria Ltd constitutes trademark infringement.”
Worldwide Taqueria alleges that Sonora Taqueria’s use of the word taqueria constitutes trademark infringement. Scan/Eater London
Details of the alleged copyright infringement. Scan/Eater London
Munoz also said: “The TAQUERIA brand has been used by Taqueria Worldwide Ltd and its predecessors since 2005 for a highly successful restaurant in London.
“Through this long-term use, Worldwide Taqueria Ltd has developed significant goodwill and reputation in the brand […] he will take all necessary steps to preserve the distinctive character of his trademarks and to enforce his rights against infringements by other parties.”
But it’s not so easy for Sonora’s owners, who have themselves built their own thriving London food business and have been serving up unrivaled flour tortillas, barbacoa, carne con chile and adobada for the past nearly three years.
“Basically, we have a general feeling that this is worth fighting,” Napier said. From early conversations with attorneys who contacted Sonora after the owners posted on her Instagram account last week, they were encouraged to learn of a distinction where, in Napier’s words, “when you copyright something, it’s not descriptive must be and unmistakable. And use of the word “Taqueria” is descriptive and not distinctive.
“To the [Taqueria] It’s the name of one company, but to everyone else it’s descriptive. It describes what your company does. And it’s not distinctive, because there can be many taquerias, just as there can be many pizzerias.” Taqueria registered its copyright in 2004, with Napier saying, “I imagine there were very few places in Britain who used the word ‘Taqueria’. But now there are a lot of them.”
This means that if Sonora can prove Taqueria’s rights to what, 18 years later, is a less obscure description or a “generic term,” she can actually “file a motion to invalidate someone else’s copyright.” . But the first phase will be overcoming the initial challenge to the Sonora name.
Salazar, whose family runs the Pollo Feliz grilled chicken chain in northern Mexico, said: “It’s just so stupid. And the reaction of the Mexicans was like outrage. Because it’s ridiculous. There’s no way to put it… and I think it also brings to mind the fact that everyone thinks there is no good Mexican Mexican food in the UK 😊 It’s another barrier.”
“It’s also quite enlightening,” Napier added, “making me think about why so much food sucks anyway, not just Mexican food but in general why it’s so expensive and so crappy so often.” If you put your money and focus on legal teams to sue, what the heck does that have to do with food? Do you know how that leads to a good meal?”
Taqueria has a contested form: in 2020 it successfully defied the trademark rights of Taco Ria, TACO RIA and TACO-RIA, a restaurant brand based in Essex. The Hearing Officer in that case wrote: “It seems to me that there is a likelihood that the average consumer will confuse one mark with another – confusing the marks outright.”
“Ideological is the wrong word,” said a visibly annoyed Napier. “But it just feels so wrong, you know?”
This legal threat comes as Salazar and Napier are closing the street food stand they have been operating in various guises since February 2020 in Netil Market, Hackney – bringing to an end a hugely successful but hugely challenging phase of business that grew out of the first Covid19 Curfew.
While Salazar and Napier are now actively searching for a permanent home for Sonora, the duo have also partnered with JKS Restaurants at the Arcade Food Hall in Center Point, where Mexa – a Birria and Mariscos concession – will open next week, September 16. is opened.
Stay tuned for more on this opening and the outcome of the Taqueria Challenge soon.