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If Trump can copy a cake, how can I protect my recipes?

President Trump's inauguration caught the eye of foodies across the country. Eyebrows were raised - not because of the sumptuous appetizers, but because of alleged food plagiarism.

Copycat cake gives rise to #CakeGate

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The cake cut with a sword by President Trump and Vice President Pence at the Salute to Our Armed Services Ball was an exact replica of a cake created for Obama's second inauguration in 2013. The original creator, Duff Goldman, a pastry chef who starred on Food Network, immediately noticed the duplication and started a brief social media storm known as #CakeGate.

It was a number of days before a bakery in Washington, D.C., revealed that an exact replica had been ordered just two weeks prior to the ball. A flurry of social media posts gave credit to Goldman, and he ultimately closed CakeGate by posting, "Group hug, y'all." An interesting fact was revealed during the process: The copycat cake was only intended as a prop and, aside from the bottom layer, was made of Styrofoam.

Are your cake designs and food creations protected from copycats?

Restaurateurs and chefs are usually frustrated when they seek to protect a new dish. Like other types of intellectual property, there are a number of legal angles to review with your lawyer to assess which will work best for your circumstances:

  • Patents: A recipe is only patentable under specific circumstances. The recipe must be useful, novel and non-obvious, and few meet that high standard.
  • Copyrights: Like patent protection, copyright law does not lend itself to simple recipes. Copyright can apply, however, when more is involved than a list of ingredients. If you write a cookbook, complete with commentary and original thought - then you have a case for copyright.
  • Trade secrets: Creative ideas in the food business constitute trade secrets no less than they do in other industries. For this reason, non-compete and non-disclosure contracts can protect your business from food pirates seeking to kidnap your creativity.

Using intellectual property laws to protect your restaurant

Is intellectual property protection an essential part of your restaurant brand's future? Not so much if you serve generic items like burgers and fries. However, if you are part of the wave of innovative kitchens that are rolling out stellar new dishes, learn how to protect your culinary ideas by contacting an attorney at Myers Berstein.

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