The Law is on Your Side, Unless You’re a Chef

The food industry is a thriving and lucrative business, offering fame and more financial rewards than ever before. The world’s infatuation with food has lead to entire television networks, magazines, publishing deals, reality shows and public domains dedicated solely to everything food related.

With budding opportunities for food artists to blossom through innovative culinary creation, the need to legally protect individual’s dishes has become increasingly more important as well. Currently courts proclaim food is a medium of creative expression not covered by law, leaving chefs concerned and out in the cold when it comes to copyright in food creation.

Lawmakers’ and scholars’ concluded that the recipe for a dish, rather than the dish itself is the proper subject matter of copyright protection. Furthermore, under the Code of Federal Regulations, recipes are considered facts, lacking originality and are not copyrightable. The only exception that could potentially lead to protection is compiling these “facts” in a unique and original way, like a cookbook.

Various food industry organizations are considered successful in implementing professional codes of ethics that stress the respect of others intellectual property rights.  However, this high praise of professional regulation has been considered a reason why copyright laws are still absent from the culinary industry.

Whether an industry is successful or not in implementing formal codes of ethics, the law should already consider certain recipes as works of applied art and copyrightable. If that were the case, maybe chefs wouldn’t feel so frantic having to fight so vigorously to protect their dishes.   Instead, they can focus on inspiring, creating and further developing the artistic acumen found in the culinary industry.

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