EVERETT — A lot of people liked Tacobook. But Facebook didn’t.
Rigoberto Bastida and his wife, Deisy Ramos, poured everything they had into opening the small taco shop in July 2016.
They named it Tacobook Taqueria and created a logo with a thumbs-up in the familiar Facebook style. The bustling business at 1130 Broadway near Everett Community College went from five tables to 10, serving authentic and affordable fare.
In April, the owners got a letter in the mail from a Beverly Hills law firm citing “unauthorized use of Facebook intellectual property.”
What’s up with that?
The taco shop’s name, blue color, lowercase font and logo was too similar to the “world famous social network service,” the letter said. “Facebook must take steps to protect consumers from confusion and prevent dilution of the Facebook Marks and brand.”
Bastida was confused.
“I thought it was a scam,” he said.
After all, it’s just a mom-and-pop in a small strip plaza shared with a minimart and a coin laundry.
Bastida, 40, works the counter. Ramos, 31, cooks up family recipes that her mom and grandma served in taco trucks. Their children, Daisy, 10, and Kevin, 12, do their homework after school at a front table and help stock the drink cooler and tidy up.
Bastida asked a customer in the legal biz to check out the letter.
Turns out it was legit.
Bastida called the California law firm. “I said, ‘I didn’t do this with a bad intention,’ ” he said. “I never thought you’d be offended by it.”
He said he never tried to hide from the social media giant. He’s had a Tacobook page on Facebook since he opened in 2016.
”I got a lot of reviews and comments. A lot of people take pictures. They take their selfies with the logos,” he said.
Bastida told the lawyer he didn’t want to cause any trouble, he just wanted to stay in business.
He worried about losing the restaurant that he’d thought was beyond their dreams to begin with.
Bastida previously was a server at IHOP, Applebee’s and Denny’s. He aspired to be his own boss.
In 2016, when a restaurant space became available near his home, he went through Ventures, a nonprofit that empowers people with limited resources to improve their lives through small business ownership. He opened Tacobook Taqueria with a business plan and a personal commitment to work seven days a week.
A week before the law firm’s letter arrived, he had for the first time ordered shirts, hats and new menus with the original Tacobook logo in lowercase letters and blue-and-red color scheme.
After talking to the lawyer, Bastida tossed the new shipment of Tacobook menus and shirts.
“I didn’t want to take the chance they’d get mad at me,” he said.
He took down the sign in front. He repainted the inside and menu board. No more blue.
“I spent good money doing the remodel. I tried to do it as fast as I could, and my budget let me,” he said.
Customers offered names: “Taco-holic.” “TacoPolice.”
Most were already taken or too risky. “I didn’t want a second letter,” he said.
Best Tacos Ever-ett was a contender.
“My dad has the best sense of humor,” said his son, Kevin, a seventh-grader at North Middle School.
Bastida said he wanted a snappy name, like Tacobook, that was easy to say for people in other languages. “A simple name that everybody can read and remember,” he said.
In the end, the firm allowed him to keep the name if he added a hyphen, which saved him from having to redo costly business paperwork.
An Everett salon, Absolut Hair, went through a similar ordeal in 2013. An international law firm representing Swedish vodka Absolut Co. told the salon to change its name because of trademark infringement. The Beverly Boulevard salon rebranded as Absolute Hair.
Bastida had a new sign made for Taco-Book, using a design that regular customer Elohim Johnston made as a school project while a student at EvCC. It’s black with a red taco. The words are in uppercase letters: TACO-BOOK.
“I’m glad they let me keep the name,” Bastida said. “A lot of people said, ‘I don’t care what your name is. As long as you’re doing your food, I’ll still be here.’ ”
Popular items are the torta cubana sandwich and street tacos. Meats include chicken, tongue and tripe.
Archie Catindig started lunching there on barbacoa tacos and carne asada when he was attending EvCC.
Now he makes the drive every weekend from Lake Stevens.
“Oh, man, just the tenderness of the meat,” Catindig said. “Especially the prices. You can’t beat the price and you can’t beat the tacos.”
He gave the new black and red sign the nod. “It looks classy,” Catindig said.
Facebook gave it the thumbs-up.
“Facebook appreciates your cooperation in rebranding your restaurant,” read the final letter dated July 10. “This letter is without prejudice to Facebook’s rights, all of which are expressly reserved.”
Herald reporter Janice Podsada contributed to this story.