Thursday, 28 June 2007

Intellectual Property and Recipes

An article in today’s New York Times covers a Chef suing another Chef over intellectual property matters. Chef #1 charges that the restaurant opened by Chef #2 (who used to work under her) is too damn similar to her own, from dishes served to the look and feel of the place. He has stolen her ‘concept’ and recipes tried to pass them off as her own, and she’s attempting to use Intellectual Property law to put a stop to that.

One of the biggest shocks, the Chef #1 says, is that Chef #2 serves a Caesar salad which comes fromChef #1's 'own Caesar salad recipe’. How did she come up with this salad? Through a recipe her mother got from a Chef in L.A., at a restaurant that’s now closed. I see quite a bit of irony in that Chef # 1 is crying foul when another Chef is copying the dish that she didn’t originate herself. I have often wondered about recipes, how ‘original’ most recipes could be said to be since they borrow flavour combinations and processes that are well established, and are sometimes essential to the food being edible (a cake wouldn’t be able to rise if it didn’t have the right balance between fats, flours, and rising agents, for example). It will be interesting to see if Intellectual Property, with its dealings in questions of creation and ownership, can be deemed to apply to things like recipes, or if recipes are often too universal to fall under anything other than the public domain.

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