Across the pond, there’s a battle over a word created south of the border.
On Sept. 6, lawyers on behalf of Taqueria Worldwide, a restaurant group in London that owns two restaurants, both called Taqueria, served another Mexican eatery, Sonora Taqueria, with legal papers claiming copyright infringement over the use of the word "taqueria."
According to Eater London, who reviewed the 20-page letter, the complaint outlined the ins-and-outs of the alleged infringement of Taqueria’s trademark and covered every instance of that alleged infringement. Eater said the letter also provided recommendations for resolution and gave Sonora’s owners a deadline to change their name: Sept. 21.
According to Britain’s Intellectual Property Office, the operating name of the U.K.’s patent office, Taqueria Worldwide holds three patents related to its pair of restaurants: the Taqueria logo, the “Q” logomark, both which were trademarked in 2010 and appear to have been slightly updated on the restaurant’s website, and the word “taqueria,” which was trademarked in 2004.
Sonora Taqueria’s owners, Michelle Salazar de la Rocha and Sam Napier, said they think they can fight the charge, stating that since the word "taqueria" refers to a type of food establishment, consumers won’t mix up the two restaurants, as Taqueria Worldwide alleges in its letter to Sonora.
“We’ve taken no action yet, but unless something changes, our plan will be to file to invalidate the copyright of the word completely,” Sam Napier, co-owner of Sonora Taqueria, told TODAY Food. “It’s a generic word, we should all be free to use it, and we hope in the future plenty of other taquerias in the U.K. can use it to accurately describe their businesses.”
If you’re living in U.S. where you can throw a stone and hit a bowl of fresh guacamole or knock over a mangonada, it might come as a shock to you that London has relatively few Mexican restaurants.
In fact, it’s been the subject of much debate in England online, with Reddit threads and Quora inquiries to suss out why. Still, the Mexican food scene across the world has been growing since the early 2000s, which has made some on social media have their opinions about this suit known, with one user Twitter even starting a petition in defense of the word “taqueria.”
“Tha audacity from @TaqueriaUK to trade mark a common word in Mexican cuisine!” tweeted one person. “Perhaps we should trade mark the word ‘pub’ and go around suing people for using it!”
“A Brit trademarking the word 'taqueria' and sending a cease and desist letter to prevent a Mexican immigrant from using it --- a fitting way to honor their late queen,” wrote another Twitter user. “Marvelous.”
For those wondering, the origin of the word “taqueria” dates back to Central American Spanish and was first recorded around 1980 to 1985 according to Dictionary.com. The word taqueria is equivalent to the combination of the words “taco” and the suffix “-ería.” which derives from the Latin word “area,” meaning “place of.” So by definition (for more than 40 years), a taqueria is any establishment that sells tacos.
TODAY reached out to Taqueria Worldwide for comment on its cease-and-desist order but hasn't heard back of this writing. Still, Eater spoke to management and the restaurant group appears to be holding fast.
“As with all UK trademark registrations, the provisions of the Trademarks Act grant the proprietor the exclusive right to the trade mark, and those rights are infringed when the trade mark is used in the UK by another undertaking without the proprietor’s consent,” Ismael Munoz, Taqueria’s operations manager, told Eater. “As such, Sonora Taqueria Ltd’s use of TAQUERIA without Worldwide Taqueria Ltd’s consent constitutes trademark infringement.”