Trying the most complex issues
for over 30 years.

Who owns a recipe?

On Behalf of | Feb 1, 2022 | Intellectual Property

For decades, people have been sharing recipes. Whether it is the delicious dessert from the potluck or Mom’s secret recipe for meatloaf, exchanging recipes is part of the process of getting comfortable in the kitchen.

When it is time to start collecting a paycheck for a recipe, the question of ownership can be more divisive. In a world where recipes have gone from index cards to internet sites, it is easier than ever to profit from someone else’s culinary expertise.

Here’s what you should know about who owns a recipe.

Tricky to protect

There are protections for many types of products and processes, but getting copyright protection is nearly impossible when it comes to a recipe. Copyright protections typically do not cover a list of ingredients but would only surround the description of the method of a recipe.

Unfortunately, the limitation on what can be copyrighted and what cannot makes it almost impossible to protect a recipe and very simple to get around protection.

Since cooking tends to be a highly customizable process, the next person down the line is very likely to add their own twist to the recipe. Often, the “twist,” no matter how small, is usually enough to make the recipe different.

Chefs don’t (usually) own them, either

A chef in a restaurant is typically in a “work for hire” situation. While they may create an incredible recipe, when they make it at work, it becomes the restaurant’s property.

However, nothing can stop the same chef from altering the recipe later on and claiming the new version as their own.