It’s all about the tacos, Iowa City restaurant owner Jose Garcia insists—what’s in a name, after all? In Garcia’s case, it’s a lot of money, opportunity cost and a potential lawsuit unless he changes the name of his La Michoacana restaurant to something else, San Antonio trademark lawyers understand from the legal action filed by the Houston based grocery chain of the same name. The small taqueria and meat market “tucked in a strip mall along Highway 1 in southwest Iowa City” faced threats of legal action when La Michoacana Meat Market in Houston claimed that Garcia’s operation infringed on its trademark.
San Antonio trademark lawyers like Douglas Shumway know all too well the cost small businesses like Garcia’s face when they unknowingly blunder into a situation like the one Garcia faces. La Michoacana Meat Market based out of Houston, Texas “has several federal trademarks registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office,” making its threatening actions on the small Iowa City taqueria legally enforceable as well as in its best interest to pursue. Shumway and other San Antonio trademark lawyers would be keen to advise new business owners like Garcia to research trademarks before shelling out for the cost of marketing and signage and building relationships with clientele for local branding.
Now Garcia has to start all over. Originally naming his restaurant as a “nod to his family’s roots in Mexico’s Michoacán region,” Garcia will encounter costs in consulting an intellectual property lawyer “to ensure the new name is usable and protectable.” He has chosen La Regia, “which means woman from Monterrey, Mexico, where is wife is from,” and the Iowa City restaurant owner is optimistic that his customer base will continue to patronize his restaurant, despite the name change. “They just want to get their hands on the tacos,” Garcia reported.
But his problem isn’t unique, Shumway and other San Antonio trademark lawyers know. Cautioning business owners to do the research before opening a business can save owners a lot of money, time, and headaches. In Garcia’s case, for example, he was advised by the intellectual property lawyer he hired to address the legal threats from the Texas-based La Michoacana that changing the name to be the best course of action. The Texas company “has more than 100 stores across Texas and parts of Oklahoma,” and its federally protected trademarks would mean that Garcia wouldn’t really have a leg to stand on in court against the claims of its violation of the Texas company’s name.
Jose Garcia is confident in his product and isn’t worried about recouping the costs associated with the name change, but other business owners might not be so fortunate. Garcia has learned from his mistakes, though, and now is “in the process of submitting federal registration for the new trademark and has checked to make sure it’s not taken.” When he started out, he reported, “I didn’t think I could get in trouble by using the name,” but Garcia is wiser now, and encourages other entrepreneurs and restaurateurs to get wise, too.