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Can you copyright a new dish?

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A version of this article first appeared in Big Hospitality.

Chefs like to lay claim to having created certain dishes, but is it possible for them to copyright a dish to stop their peers from reproducing it?

The short answer is no. Recipes are an example of how the interlocking principles of our intellectual property laws leave gaps.

A recipe constitutes a literary work for copyright purposes but that only protects the written recipe from being republished, not manifestations of that recipe. Nor would a dish qualify as an artistic work, being intrinsically ephemeral.

While a copyright refers to the expression of an idea, such as an artistic work, patents are applied to an invention, meaning that these are also unlikely to be applicable when it comes to recipes or dishes. Patents are most unlikely to apply: the recipe would have to be substantially novel, and be capable of industrial processing. Lastly, we have a concept of design law, but that only protects the shape of products.

The only 'crumb' is if the dish could be given an original name (eg Cronut), it might be possible to obtain a trademark, which, while not preventing copying of the recipe, could provide a monopoly over the use of that name.

This guide is for general information and interest only and should not be relied upon as providing specific legal advice. If you require any further information about the issues raised in this article please contact the author or call 0207 404 0606 and ask to speak to your usual Goodman Derrick contact.