A US court has ruled that recipes cannot be protected by copyright, in a dispute between two former business partners.
The US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division ruled that although copyright can, in some circumstances, protect the layout of a recipe book, it cannot apply to a recipe itself.
The case centred on Rosemarie Carroll and Larry Moore, two restaurant owners from the city of Cleveland.
Carroll and Moore previously co-ran two restaurants in the area—Ketchup to Us and Tomaydo-Tomadhho—both of which served casual snacks including sandwiches and pizzas.
In 2007, Carroll purchased Moore’s interest in the restaurants.
The acquisition, according to the judgment, was subject to a share purchase agreement that contained certain covenants regarding the use of confidential information and the hiring of employees.
In 2011, Moore and George Vozary, one of the named defendants in the case and a former Tomaydo-Tomadhho employee, opened another restaurant in Cleveland, called Caterology.
Believing the restaurant was copying her recipes, Carroll sued the pair last year. She alleged that they infringed her copyright and trade secrets, and breached the contract associated with the share price agreement.
The defendants filed for a summary judgment clearing them of any liability.
In its January 29 judgment, the court said: “The identification of ingredients necessary for the preparation of food is a statement of facts. There is no expressive element deserving copyright protection in each listing. Thus, recipes are functional directions for achieving a result and are excluded from copyright protection.”
While the court added that although copyright protection “may extend to a recipe book or cookbook to the extent it is a compilation”, it added that in this case there is “simply no allegation that defendants infringed on the layout or other creative expression contained in the recipe book”.
Carroll had claimed she created the Tomaydo-Tomahhdo Recipe Book.
The court concluded: “As set forth above ... the recipes themselves are not copyrightable and, thus, any use of the recipes is not infringement.”
All the remaining claims were dismissed by the court.
We could not be reached for comment.