London taco restaurant faces legal battle over ownership of the term Taqueria

Sonora opened as a food stall in Hackney in 2021  (Handout)
Sonora opened as a food stall in Hackney in 2021 (Handout)

A London taco restaurant is claiming it owns the rights to the world ‘taqueria’ and has served legal papers against Hackney’s Sonora Taquería restaurant.

Taqueria, which has two restuarants in Notting Hill and on Exmouth Market, allees that Sonora’s use of the term constitutes a trademark infringement, according to Eater London.

Lawyers on behalf of Taqueria service Sonora with a letter outlining the alleged infringement, and recommendation for a resolution by September 21.

But the owners of Sonora, Michelle Salazar de la Rocha and Sam Napier, told Eater London they are hoping to fight the charge.

“if you copyright something, it has to be non-descriptive and distinctive. And the use of the word ‘taqueria’ is descriptive and non-distinctive,” Mr Napier said.

“For [Taqueria] it’s the name of a company, but for anybody else, it’s descriptive. It’s describing what your company does. And it’s not distinctive, because there can be many taquerias, just as there can be many pizzerias.” Taqueria filed its copyright in 2004, when, Napier says, “I imagine that were very few places in the UK using the word ‘taqueria’. But now there’s lots of them.”

Taqueria is owned by Trent Alexander Ward and Daniele Benatoff, directors in numerous businesses, according to public records.

The first site, on Notting Hill’s Westbourne Grove, opened in 2005; the follow-up on Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell opened in 2021.

Ismael Munoz, Taqueria’s operations manager said: “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 long-standing 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.”

This legal threat comes as Sonora’s street food stall in Netil Market, Hackney, closes. While Salazar and Napier are now actively seeking a permanent home for Sonora.