Copyright Holder Sues Former Business Partner for Serving Her Recipes
Copyright protection may extend to a recipe book or cookbook because it is a compilation, but that protection is limited to way the content is presented and how the compilation’s elements are presented. The elements themselves are not necessarily protected by copyright law.
In Tomaydo-Tomahhdo LLC et al. v. Vozary et al., the plaintiff sued the defendant, a former business partner, for copying her recipes and offering the dishes at a competing restaurant. The plaintiff claimed she created the “Tomaydo Tomahhdo Recipe Book” in 2012 and obtained a copyright for her recipe book in 2014. After she learned that the defendant was offering the dishes from her recipe book at his restaurant, she brought a claim for copyright infringement against him and others claiming that the menus, offerings, recipes and presentation of food at his restaurant are nearly identical to her copyrighted “work”. In support of her claim, the plaintiff conducted a “comparison test” of the various recipes and menu items offered. According to the plaintiff, the results of the test were that the defendant copied her recipes.
The defendant argued that copyright protection does not extend to the recipes themselves, but may only be extended to the layout of the recipe and any other artistic elements in the book itself. Further, the defendant claimed that the plaintiff’s comparison test was inadmissible.
The Court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant on the copyright claim. The Court did not have to address the comparison test, because it found that the recipe itself is not protected. However, the Court did state that if it did use the comparison test, then the test shows the food items served by the defendant were different than those offered by the plaintiff. For example, the plaintiff’s chicken salad sandwich used provolone cheese and Defendant’s chicken salad sandwich used mozzarella cheese. The Court stated, “Certainly, plaintiffs cannot be suggesting that somehow copyright protection prevents defendants from serving chicken salad sandwiches.” The Court also dismissed the plaintiff’s supplemental state court claims, thereby dismissing the entire action.
The plaintiffs have filed an appeal to the Sixth Circuit.