22 October 2015Copyright

No copyright for recipes ruling stands

A US restaurant owner’s copyright claim centring on a recipe book has fallen flat at a US appeals court because it was deemed not original enough to deserve protection under US law.

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied Rosemarie Carroll’s claim on Tuesday, October 20, because the recipes published in her Tomaydo-Tomahhdo Recipe Book do not constitute an “original compilation”.

The ruling upholds a decision handed down by the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in January this year.

Under US law, a compilation can be granted protection if the owner demonstrates originality in compiling the data.

According to the sixth circuit, the US Supreme Court’s 1993 ruling in Feist Publications v Rural Telephone Service Company established that factual statements alone cannot be granted protection without a degree of creativity.

Carroll had asserted the claim against her former business partner Larry Moore.  The pair had owned the Cleveland-based Tomaydo-Tomahhdo restaurant together.

Carroll bought Moore’s interest in the restaurant for $250,000 in 2007.  Under an agreement reached by both parties as part of the deal, “all originals and copies of ... menu files and development ideas, recipes (current and historical) training tools (picture boards, build sheets, prep lists, and master order guide)” were transferred to Carroll.

In 2011 Moore set up another restaurant called Caterology with George Vozary, a former Tomaydo-Tomahhdo employee.

A year later, Carroll published the Tomaydo-Tomahhdo Recipe Book.

In 2014, Carroll sued Moore and Vozary at the Ohio district court and claimed that the pair were using her recipes on their restaurant’s menus without her permission. She alleged that the menus infringed her copyright and trade secrets, and breached the 2007 agreement.

The district court granted Moore and Vozary’s motion for summary judgment in February 2015 clearing them of any liability.

Despite an appeal against the decision lodged by Carroll, the sixth circuit held firm.

The three judges were unanimous in their rejection of Carroll’s claim.

Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, presiding over the case, said: “Tomaydo does not point to anything demonstrating that the recipe book is an original compilation.

“While Tomaydo stresses that they purposefully selected and arranged the menu items, Tomaydo never identifies what is original and creative about their process. Their description merely characterizes how recipes are developed and further perfected.”

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