Michelle Salazar de la Rocha and Sam Napier, owners of Sonora Taquería, a Mexican restaurant in London, are fighting a cease-and-desist letter sent to them demanding that they stop using the word “taqueria” in their restaurant’s name.
Worldwide Taqueria, a restaurant group in London that owns two restaurants called Taqueria, is allegedly threatening to sue de la Rocha and Napier for copyright infringement if they didn’t change the name of their restaurant by this week. Note: they don’t spell “taquería” correctly in their restaurant group name.
“Basically, the general feeling we’re getting has been that it’s worth fighting it,” Napier told Eater London.
As crazy as it sounds, de la Rocha and Napier might have some issues. According to Britain’s Intellectual Property Office, Taqueria Worldwide holds three patents, one of which is on the word “taqueria,” which Taqueria owners Trent Alexander Ward and Daniele Benatoff trademarked in 2004.
Napier argues that “if you copyright something, it has to be non-descriptive and distinctive. And the use of the word ‘taqueria’ is descriptive and non-distinctive.” He told TODAY Food that they are planning “to invalidate the copyright of the word completely.”
“It’s a generic word,” he said. “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.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, social media users were dumbfounded that Sonora Taquería might have to give up its name. “Calling all Latin folks! This place in the UK @TaqueriaUK is trying to trademark the word taqueria and SUE a Mexican owned taqueria for using the word in their name (Sonora Taqueria) this is the most RIDICULOUS thing I’ve heard. The colonizers cannot stop COLONIZING.”
Many others deemed it cultural appropriation. “White British people are trying to tell Mexican business owners that they cannot use the word taqueria because it belongs to them,” one woman said on social media.
There is currently a petition at Change.org to stop Worldwide Taqueria from being able to continue to trademark the word “taqueria.”