Something’s cookin in the kitchen

June 27, 2007

In recent years, a handful of chefs and restaurateurs have invoked intellectual property concepts, including trademarks, patents and trade dress — the distinctive look and feel of a business — to defend their restaurants, their techniques and even their recipes, but most have stopped short of a courtroom. The Pearl Oyster Bar suit may be the most aggressive use of those concepts by the owner of a small restaurant. Some legal experts believe the number of cases will grow as chefs begin to think more like chief executives.

Fascinating article in today’s New York Times (Free registration required) from Pete Wells about an impending law suit amongst the culinary classes in the big apple. Chef Rebecca Charles is suing Ed McFarland, chef and co-owner of Ed’s Lobster Bar in SoHo and her sous-chef at Pearl for six years for breech of intellectual copyright. She claims that McFarland’s new restaurant copies “each and every element” of her eatery and it’s going to court.
What makes this case so interesting is that it appears there’s nowhere safe from litigation these days. The piece claims that chef’s are taking this very seriously and one ..

has applied for patents on a number of his culinary inventions, like a method for printing pictures of food on flavored, edible paper. Mr. Cantu also makes his cooks sign a nondisclosure agreement before they so much as boil water at Moto, his restaurant in Chicago.

If lawyers are now in the kitchen can it be long before they’re in the rehearsal room, the gallery or the theatre as well?

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