Who Is Bootlegging the Great Chefs of Europe?

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One of the many strange wrinkles in America's intellectual-property regime is that you can't copyright a fashion design or a recipe — an interesting fact for the music and movie industries to consider, since the fashion and restaurant industries have managed to do pretty well without such regulatory crutches. Unfortunately, some chefs have been catching the IP bug. Food and Wine reports:

Inarguably, Cantu's gonzo innovations place him among the shock troops of American cuisine, but it's possible that a more significant legacy will be his efforts to own the ideas that are born in his kitchen. He has already filed 12 applications for patents, including one detailing the process for making cotton-candy paper, and says there are more to come.

For all his originality, Cantu is not the only one who thinks that the ideas born in a restaurant should belong to the chef. There are at least two ways to claim legal protection for intellectual property. One is Cantu's route, through patents, but another, copyrighting a dish, could have much more far-reaching effects on the culinary world. Chefs have traditionally worked on an open-source model, freely borrowing and expanding on each other's ideas and, yes, sometimes even stealing them outright. But some influential people are now talking about changing the copyright law so that chefs own their recipes the same way composers own their songs. Under this plan, anyone who wanted to borrow someone else's recipe would have to pay a licensing fee.

The next step, I guess, will be work-for-hire contracts and suits against chefs who take their recipes with them when they get a better job. Don't tell Cantu.

Elsewhere in Reason: Julian Sanchez reports that similar ideas are infecting fashion designers.

[Via bOING bOING.]