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Cooking recipes - Not protectable under Copyright Law

Following our earlier post on this topic, another court has ruled that cooking recipes are not protectable under Copyright Law. In Norberto-Colon Lorenzana et al. v. South American Rests. Corp., Case No. 14-1698, August 21, 2015, the Court found that the recipe and instructions were "quite plainly not a copyrightable work." Opinion at p.6 (a copy is being hosted on Mega.co.nz). I believe the Court's finding may be overbroad. While I agree that a list of a recipe's ingredients is not protectable, I do not agree necessarily that a recipe's instructions are not protectable. Whether instructions are protectable depends on how they are written. The Court cites Publ'ns Int'l Ltd. v. Meredith Corp., 88 F.3d 473, 480-81 (7th Cir. 1996) to support its position that "recipes are functional directions to achieve a result and therefore not copyrightable". Opinion at p.6. However, in the Meredith case, the Court expressly stated that the instructions at issue "contain[ed] no expressive elaboration upon either [the list of required ingredients or the directions for combining them], as opposed to recipes that might spice up functional directives by weaving in creative narratives." Available on Google Scholar at 480. Thus, the Meredith Court explicitly recognized that some instructions may be protectable.

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