A Moron In A Hurry

October 18, 2006

Steal This Recipe

Filed under: copyright, patents — nick @ 3:02 pm

Sometimes you just have to stop and wonder what is going on.  Legal Fixation comments on an article in Food & Wine on intellectual property in the kitchen.  Efforts include patenting certain concoctions, as well as copyrighting the expression of recipes themselves.  Of course, outright plagiarism of published recipes is a no-no, and some food processes (like engineering absinthe or molecular gatronomy) may seem apt for some sort of IP protection at first glance, but it still remains to be seen whether most cooking is truly inventive.  Chefs may disagree, but their self-interest in protecting their ritzy concoctions should be checked by some sanity.  Surprisingly, the fashion industry, which mirrors cooking in that they’re both evolving arts, has been making strides in protecting their wares, with legislation even being considered in Congress, but I’ll send you to Counterfeit Chic for more on that.  Still, we should consider the cultural implications of such food rights for fear that they go too far.  Rather than buying my food, it’s easy to imagine a time when a restaurant licenses me the right to eat their food, much like the entertainment industry is seeking to characterize “purchases” of songs and movies as merely purchasing limited licenses to use.  Upcoming chefs often work in apprenticeship type positions, meaning at some point they will be confronted with NDAs and be forced to sign away all rights to recipes they come up with to their restaurants (who will of course be in dominant position of power given the stiff competition in the industry).  Worst of all, if food patents become big business, the difficulty in proving prior art in culinary seems overwhelming and the likelihood of patent trolls seems inevitable.  Chefs had better be careful what they wish for.

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