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Recipe plagarism

Periodically I daydream about opening a gourmet food store (something similar to what the Barefoot Contessa was like before its demise). I'm a very good cook, and my foodstuff has garnered much praise from a wide mix of people, which does fuel this fantasy.

However, most of my recipes are from established cookbooks and chefs. Is using a recipe published in a cookbook for a business venture a form of plagarism? Are recipes protected by copyright laws?

So, I'm asking all the chefs and caterers and storeowners out there: do you routinely borrow other people's recipes or do you establish your own recipes (even if it's only changing one ingredient out of a long list, does that alone make it "your" recipe?

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  1. If someone has published a recipe, you are perfectly within your rights to follow this recipe, make the dish, and then sell the product. What you can not do is sell/publish the recipe as your own. If no kitchen could sell any food product that came from a recipe they didn't develop themselves, we would all be in big trouble.

    35 Replies
    1. re: bnemes3343

      Bnemes3343, I don't know if you're even a lawyer, but your advice is incorrect. One can often sell/publish someone else's recipe as one's own by respecting basic copyright principles.

      1. re: PlatypusJ

        My understanding is that the ingredient list is not copyrighted, but the instructions are.

        1. re: MMRuth

          Actually, while debatable amongst legal circles, technically when a recipe is "created" (whether published or not) it's arguably protected by copyright laws.

          Now, whether someone can sue you for stealing, ahem, I mean using their recipes for profit is a different question, implicating unfair competition, trade secrets and perhaps even patent laws.

          For further reading, I suggest this article: http://law.bepress.com/cgi/viewconten...

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Ideas cannot be copyrighted, only actual works. That's why I cannot transcribe one of Julia's recipes and post it here, but I can recast the instructions in my own words and put it anywhere I want to. I'd rather do this anyway, since it gives me leeway for substitutions and/or doing the procedure a little differently.

            The issue among us cooks is more a matter of respect than of legality. It's not at all uncommon for some cookbook or food-column writers to lift recipes minus any attribution, and if you're talking tuna-noodle casserole that's no biggie. It's when said writer presents something as her very own invention, or maybe as an Old Family Recipe, and it's got, say, Paula Wolfert's fingerprints all over it, that it's time to start heaping scorn. If it's printed in a copyrighted publication, even a paraphrased or modified version of a recipe the writer originally got from another book or website should have an attribution in there somewhere - "This was based on a recipe I found in..."

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Thanks ipsedixit for that! From a cursory reading though it appears that recipes are not copyrightable - at least by Chefs that is. The entire Cookbook copyright is owned by the book's publisher, not by the Chef who created the book. Recipes apparently lack the required "original expression." The ingredients are a mere "statement of facts" and the directions nothing more than a "process or procedure."

              The author of the legal paper seems to believe that the courts have not caught up with creative cooking arts. It is one thing to talk about baked apple pie which has been around for how long now and Thomas Keller's Oyster Pearls which he "invented" last week. Also it seems there are two rules to cookbook publishing:
              1) use your preface to vigorously assert your own originality and;
              2) steal like mad from your predecessors!

              So Roland Parker I say full steam ahead!

              1. re: scoopG

                A collection or arrangement of otherwise non-copyrightable materials (like recipes) might be copyrightable if the collection/arrangment itself constitutes creative expression. However, that copyright only extends to the collection/arrangement and not to the underlying materials. Whoever does the collecting/arranging is the original holder of the copyright. So if the chef "created" the book, then it's the chef's copyright. The chef may sell the copyright (or pieces thereof) to a book publisher.

                1. re: PlatypusJ

                  Platypus - that is not what it says in the legal report ipsedixit introduced. At least in my cursory reading of the 43 page text.

                  Food, Cooked Food, Dishes, Recipes or whatever do not fall under copyright laws as it applies to "creative expression" under recent court rulings in the US.

                  Thomas Keller is even quoted as saying that he would technically need permission from his publisher to use one of his own recipes.

                  Courts seem to treat Food and the creative expression in cooking and presenting it as not falling under the protection similarly accorded works of dance, film, novels and films etc. One reason for this it seems is that most cooked food falls into the category of "culinary domain."

                2. re: scoopG

                  "The entire Cookbook copyright is owned by the book's publisher, not by the Chef who created the book."

                  In my early grunt-work days in publishing, I used to file copyrights for cookbooks as well as other types of books. The copyright is held by the person named in the copyright application. That may be the publisher, the author, or a company set up specifically for the purpose of holding that copyright. In the early days of publishing, most copyrights were held by the publisher in trust for the author. That's now changed and nearly all publishing contracts with an author (with the exception of some textbooks with multiple authors and editors) stipulate that the publisher will file for copyright in whatever name the author chooses.

                  1. re: JoanN

                    Just to clarify for anyone who may not know much about the writing/publishing process, any writer may copyright his/her work prior to sending it out to publishers and/or agents. That is assuming it is a copyrightable work.

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      there is a common law copyright protection by the very fact of creation by the author (assuming it is original).

                      a discussion of common law copyright:

                      federal copyright law is additional protection.

                      i don't know if this has been cited, but it is useful:

                      and this:

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Actually, a writer's work is copyright (by U.S. law) the moment the writer records it in permanent format, whether that be on cyber paper, dictation machine, tape, or hard copy. In some cases, REGISTERING your copyright will give you added benefits you may not have if you haven't bothered with formal registration. In some cases, those added benefits may be quite substantial.

                3. re: ipsedixit

                  Patent laws will only apply if the "inventor" gets a patent from the patent office for his/her "invention."

                  Unfair competition, trade secrets, and other state laws will be (in most if not all jurisdictions) preempted by copyright law, which is federal. This makes a copyright claim the exclusive remedy.

                  1. re: PlatypusJ

                    unfair competition and trade secrets claims may encompass conduct that is not addressed in copyright -- even with respect to use of proprietary recipes in a business setting, and thus, such claims are not necessarily preempted by federal copyright law.

                    any author's original creative work is copyrightable. arranging words to describe cooking steps would seem to qualify. these days, i'm wondering whether proprietary recipes used commercially might begin to be protected via a "business method"-type patent. just thinking out loud....

                    1. re: alkapal

                      Regarding the copyright preemption issue, true, it would depend on the facts.

                      Arranging words to describe cooking steps, though, does not constitute a "creative" work because instructions are utilitarian. In order for the instructions to be creative, and therfore copyrightable, the author would have to integrate something extra (e.g., floury descriptions, humor, stories) into the instruction. I think I remember Amy Sedaris doing this in her cookbook.

                      1. re: PlatypusJ

                        "Floury descriptions"? I guess that's certainly possible in a cookbook. Sorry - I couldn't resist.

                        Wasn't there a recent case in NYC of a chef trying to stop one of his former employees from opening a new restaurant using "his" recipes? I don't recall if the legal basis of the claim was copyright, unfair competition, or what.

                        1. re: cookie monster

                          Found it - it's "her," not "his," recipes, and the claim seems to have been as much about the concept and design of the restaurant as the actual recipes.


                        2. re: PlatypusJ

                          Actually, I think instructions come under the merger doctrine. If an idea can only be expressed in a limited number of ways, it "merges" with the expression and neither is protected.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Aha!!! So THAT explains it! There is another thread somewhere on these boards questioning why literary magazines (and others?) are soliciting *annotated* recipes! Well, according to the website paper you cite above (http://tinyurl.com/2mpcd9), by current U.S. law the annotation makes the recipes COPYRIGHTABLE!!!

                        Those sneaky devils!

                        The following excerpt is provided for educational purposes:

                        "The Copywright Office of the U.S. government has added its own limitations, noting, 'Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.' "

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          your citation from the "horse's mouth" (copyright office), caroline, nails it! thanks.

                      2. re: MMRuth

                        David Lebovitz recently wrote and interesting article about this issue. http://foodblogalliance.com/2009/04/r...

                        1. re: theotagogirl

                          Food writer Laurie Colwin once said that if it wasn't for people sharing recipes, mankind would not have survived. Hence the long-standing tradition of sharing recipes. It's something that makes food blogs special. But it's always a good idea, ethically and legally, to cite your source of inspiration.

                          1. re: HillJ

                            This is one reason why I have stopped doing much on my food blog. I meticulously craft my own recipes from my own mind with flavors I like in my food. I don't mind people using them, but people do steal and don't give credit. I used to post recipes on a message board I was on and would go to another board later and see my recipe on there posted by someone from where I originally posted it, claiming it was theirs. It really made me angry. I don't even make that recipe anymore b/c everyone was passing it around and it's origins became lost.

                            1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                              sisterfunkhaus, I can understand why you feel that way and I respect your frustration. Blogging is an (undeserved) easy target, heck the Internet has made cut & pasters of us all. And originalty is harder to come by, keep and claim-even when earned. A few of my recipes have been selected for cookbooks over the years and I've seen them used, misused, adapted and improperly credited myself and the publisher (who now owns them) didn't seem to really care when I brought it to their attention. Unless I wanted to spend my time with legal eagles, I had little choice. In my case, we weren't talking big money worth the time and energy...but it does chip away at your perspective on humanity.

                              I have also seen the use of "provided by" when sharing an original source for a recipe with others. I think sometimes the real dilemma is knowing who the originator truly is or taking the time to research it.

                              1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                It's tremendously frustrating when a recipe that's offered up in a public venue is appropriated by someone else.

                                Just keep track of the time/date stamps on your own blog, and elsewhere you discuss making your recipes. That way if questioned "who made this *first*?" you've got a time/date stamp that shows that you went on the record about it -- first.

                                1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                  This recipe sharing dilemma reminds me of the original allrecipes.com site which began useful and fun. But I stopped posting there because the recipes which were suppose to become the ownership of the sharing site wound up all over the net; even commercial sites with a recipe section reprinted these recipes w/out permission. It was pre-food blog era but for those of us who worked at creating recipes (like you) it wasn't fun to see your recipe yanked and reused without proper identifying marks.

                          2. re: PlatypusJ

                            Which is why I said 'as your own' in my reply. Yes, you obviously need to respect copyright laws. But this is really not relevant to the OP's question. He/She just wants to make an apple pie from a recipe and sell it without going to Rykers.

                            1. re: bnemes3343

                              Interesting debate considering the lawsuit against Seinfield's wife cookbook and the other woman who states she had the "idea" first.

                              1. re: foodseek

                                Not that this is a big deal, but the lawsuit is not about using copyrighted aspects from the other author's book; it's about slanderous remarks allegedly made by Seinfeld regarding the author of the "other" book. The law is quite clear on this topic: recipes themselves cannot be copyrighted; only their written expression.

                                1. re: Bob Brooks

                                  Bob, no - recipes are not protected by copyright law. Nor is the "written expression" of recipes protected. Please see ipsedixit's post above with link to law article. Chefs cannot own copyrights to their own recipes - the book publisher would own the copyright to what I understand is the published collection of recipes. No court will ever uphold someone's recipe for "Apple Pie" as it is part of the "culinary domain."

                                  1. re: scoopG

                                    I think you didn't understand what I meant by "written expression". By that I meant that you cannot take the word-for-word instructions of a recipe from someone else and copy it as your own. You may, however, take all the other details and techniques of the recipe and write them in your own words without infringing anyone else's rights.

                                    1. re: Bob Brooks

                                      In many circumstances one CAN take word-for-word instructions from someone else's recipy and copy it as one's own. (e.g., combine 1 cup flour and 3 eggs). You cannot, however, when those instructions include creative expression independent from the recipe itself.

                              2. re: bnemes3343

                                Copyright law is the ONLY thing relevant to the OP's quesiton. If recipes were protected by copyright, then the apple pie itself would be protected as a derivative work. Since recipes are not protected (to the extent that they are mere statements of facts), then anyone is free to "sell/publish the recipe as [one's] own."

                                1. re: PlatypusJ

                                  Keep in mind ethical chefs/cookbook writers typically pay homage to whomever they've borrowed from, especially when they're borrowing a recipe virtually as is. I think you see this on menus where the chef is secure enough to pay tribute on the menu to whomever was the dish's original creator.

                              3. re: PlatypusJ

                                "One can often sell/publish someone else's recipe as one's own by respecting basic copyright principles"

                                Isn't that an oxymoronic statement - you can steal [copy] someone else's copyrighted original material and claim it as your own intellectual property by respecting the basic copyright principles which state that one cannot copy [steal] another's original material without obtaining the right to copy? How do you do that?

                            2. I seem to recall hearing that Homaru Cantu of Moto had taken out some patents on some of the techniques that he uses in his restaurant. If he has a patent on the technique which is essentially his recipe, then I would guess that it would be protected by law. Any comments on this situation?

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: moh

                                from my post up-thread:
                                "i'm wondering whether proprietary recipes used commercially might begin to be protected via a "business method"-type patent. just thinking out loud...."

                                1. re: moh

                                  It is theoretically possible to get a patent on a cooking technique, especially for the new, molecular gastronomists. The most significant hurdle, though, is that the technique must be "non-obvious," meaning that a person knowledgeable in the field of use and with ordinary skill in the art would not likely develop the same invention. This hurdle would likely prevent most recipies from being patentable.

                                  A business method patent wouldn't really apply to recipes because these are for inventions for new ways of doing business. An example of a business method is Blockbuster's online, DVD subscription rental service.

                                  1. re: PlatypusJ

                                    Homaru Cantu's recipes are in the family of molecular gastronomy, and he experiments in a lab to develop some of his cooking techniques (much like the chef of El Bulli, Ferran Adria) which is why he may be able to patent them.

                                    1. re: moh

                                      I think he has applied for a patent or two. To obtain a patent, the "invention" must produce a useful, concrete and tangible result. Ideas and concepts are out. Patents are granted for "processes, machines, manufacturers and composition of matter."

                                2. Thanks for asking this question as it was something I've been wondering about too. I'm very happy to find out that this wouldn't be a problem. Not that I was really expecting the author of a cookbook to actually taste any of my food and accuse me of using their recipe, but it's nice to know that there's one less thing I will have to worry about if I ever launch my own business.

                                  1. How can a copyright law be enforced when the Internet is so expansive and cannot be policed every second? If I copyrighted an original recipe, then posted it here, the chances of me finding where it has been posted again are slim to nil. If I posted a recipe verbatim from a Southern Living cookbook without citing it, how would the copyright infringement become apparent?

                                    I ask because I have suggested an “Employee Recipe” theme for my company’s 2011 calendar, and I certainly don’t want it to cause any problems.

                                    I’m fine with just citing the source of the recipe if it is not original, ie: “Taken from the YYZ Cookbook, by Geddy Lee, c.1981, with additional commentary by employee ...”

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: cuccubear

                                      cuccu, be careful. look at the ridiculous judgment that came down today in federal court for downloading 30 songs illegally. verdict @ $22 THOUSAND dollars PER SONG!

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        That's what I'm afraid of, something like that.

                                        1. re: cuccubear

                                          frankly, cuccu-bro-, i would not take on that task. too much hassle, and people who don't tell the truth....

                                      2. re: cuccubear

                                        Have never seen this thread before, but am reading it now. Very interesting topic. I appreciate the YYZ cookbook by Geddy Lee :)

                                      3. I first discovered Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa a number of years ago when she was featured as one of Victoria magazine's female entrepreneurs of the year. I immediately clipped the article and saved it and still go back to read it because I too have dreamed of opening a small business like this. Great question! =)

                                        1. I'm going to take this a bit further with a question I have - is it illegal to scan a recipe from one of my cookbooks or a magazine and store it on my computer or re-type one of my favorite published recipes (not grandma's recipe) into one of my recipe manager software programs? It's not for sale nor would be seen or used by anyone other than me. Wondering if that falls into the single copy allowed for "education purposes." I'm finding my cookbooks are becoming "dinosaurs" in an electronic age and can manage the information better on my computer.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: yiffie

                                            Interesting question. I'm not a lawyer, but it sounds to me like you're just copying it for your personal use, which I believe is fine. If you were scanning it and emailing it to all of your friends or posting it on your blog, that would be a different story.

                                            I think it's analogous to buying a music CD and then copying a song onto your ipod or onto a mix tape (do people still make those? I guess not?) I believe that once you've bought the CD, you're allowed to make copies for your own use.


                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              When I am copying a recipe digitally, I am always careful to include the source reference so that if at a future time I share the recipe with someone, I can accurately state that it is from XXX book or website.

                                              1. re: tcamp

                                                That is a good idea. If any problem were ever to arise, it would show that you were at least trying not to take credit for the recipe yourself.

                                                I was going to insist on that for the recipe calendar idea I had above. Everyone must site the source of their recipe and I would include it in the text. The whole calendar idea was shot down though.

                                          2. There was a restaurant that opened years ago here in Des Moines that listed on the menu where they "stole" a bunch of the recipes. They were all from long established restaurants still open here.
                                            Example: "We stole our onion rings from Maxie's", etc. To my knowledge they never had a problem with it, and operated for at least 20 years, although at some point they dropped it from the menu.
                                            I suspect there subtle changes to the recipes, or maybe the named places were flattered and chose to leave them alone.

                                            1. If they are, then there are a lot of Food Network stars including Ina Garten, RR, and Paula Deen, as well as The Pioneer Woman who would be in big trouble. I regularly recognize f their recipes from The Joy of Cooking, The Betty Crocker Cookbook, and as exact recipes my mom has made for years and got from who knows where. Sometimes I will even go look something up becasue I know I have seen or eaten the recipe before. They will often adjust the amount of salt or one other ingredient so it will seem like it's theirs. Now, I know many of the recipes are theirs, but many are not.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                I have noticed watching Sunny Anderson she often says she got a recipe from "this friend" or "that friend" and I wonder if FN ever checks for the origin of the recipe before they put it on their site under her name.

                                                1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                  It was quite some time ago, but I noticed not just one but a few of Joy Of Cooking's recipes -- ones from the 1970s version -- reprinted and credited to someone else. This was in the early '90s, perhaps they thought that people stopped looking at the book as it existed before the huge '80s makeover.

                                                2. Recipe plagiarism happens all the time.

                                                  Currently there is a very big name chef who has a new cookbook out and one of his recipes is identical to mine that was published in a newspaper 10 years ago. There have been a couple of cases where I have used the legal system to sue other operators that have stolen trademarked names/logos and in one case a person who photocopied our recipe books and menu and used it as theirs. Ironically the guy who stole my name and logo ended up buying my trademarks when I sold and retired.

                                                  Where I currently live there are four separate knock-off restaurants that have copied other chains that are not in our area. Unfortunately one chain did move into the area and people immediately realized it but the knock-off had become established over 10 years that nobody cared and some people actually think the chain had stolen their look and theme from them.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: RetiredChef

                                                    >>""Currently there is a very big name chef who has a new cookbook out and one of his recipes is identical to mine that was published in a newspaper 10 years ago."""<<<

                                                    oh, i know what curiosity did to the cat, but......

                                                    DO TELL!

                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                      I understand the desire to know who it is but I will respectfully decline to name the person, if I wish to pursue this matter I could do so legally but have chosen not to. He (the big name) may not even be aware of the newspaper article, it could have been one of his sous chefs that copied the recipe and started using it in the restaurant.

                                                      For this topic the important point is that recipe plagiarism does happen.

                                                      1. re: RetiredChef

                                                        okey dokey, the cat shall stay alive then.

                                                        you might want to start out bringing the matter to the chef's attention, by sending a letter to the legal department of the publisher.

                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                          I appreciate your suggestion and your zeal of wanting to protect me however I have chosen not to pursue the matter. I am retired; I have sold my restaurants and need no publicity. Many people have remarked that they like the recipe and it has created quite a bit of chatter. In my mind he has done a far better job of disseminating it to the public than I did and if people enjoy it and it brings joy to their taste buds I am happy.

                                                          As far as writing a letter I thought about it but then the words of my very wise business attorney came to my mind: “What’s your goal?”

                                                          What do I want their publisher to do, recall the books and reprint them with a note that the original recipe was created by me? Do I want monetary compensation? Do I wish that they cease using the recipe?

                                                          If I was still in business I would probably ask that a note be added that my restaurant (got to get the advertising) was the originator of the recipe, more than likely they would pull it from subsequent printings and offer me a small monetary compensation to go away along with a guarantee that I shut up. (If it sounds like this has happened before - it has but the dynamics have now changed since I am retired and not protecting my business assets.)

                                                          The public/customer will be the loser in this case by not having a good recipe/technique, I am in the position in life that I don’t need anymore money so I would rather the public just get the enjoyment, In some ways I am flattered that such a respected and well known chef has used one of my recipes and decided to feature it in one of best-selling cookbooks.

                                                          1. re: RetiredChef

                                                            i understand your point. i'd do at least a letter to see the response. (you know, i really do love kitty cats, but seem intent on killing one). if you got some dough, you could donate it to a food kitchen.

                                                  2. An old Thread I see , but I just had a shock. I am a chocolatier , i discussed a product i had created with a friend only to see that very same thing on their site a few minutes ago.... it sucks MAJORLY .

                                                    1. Maida Heatter mentions in her cookbooks bakeries that use them, and I've come across a commercial brownie that is recognizably her South Beach brownie. That is completely cool.

                                                      I believe one of the things Martha Stewart is famous for is pushing the envelope on the 'borrowing' of recipes for one's own cookbooks. My understanding is that for added safety, they altered the recipes so that the quantities wouldn't be identical to the originals (either by measuring differently, or changing the overall quantity of the recipe).

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: foiegras

                                                        My understanding is that Martha appropriated with little or no alteration, and did not include a headnote that gave any credit or attribution. The pattern of her doing this was blatant, and she was easily found out. I heard firsthand about this from professional cooks/chefs, food writers, and cookbook writers, and the amount of widespread vitriol from inside the industry against Martha was palpable.

                                                      2. I want to publish a cheap ebook of my recipe collection, but many are from famous chefs. I would freely attribute to them, but am worried THEY would not want me to use their names because I would be profiting from their names. What's the best choice? Attribute to them giving their names, or attribute generally, such as "a famous French chef" or "a staple of daytime cooking show" or something similar?

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: momo2000

                                                          Recipe author name

                                                          Publication/Publication Date

                                                          reprinted with permission

                                                          or, reprinted from (name source)

                                                          and, if you are really concerned contact the publisher for authorized (written) consent to reprint.

                                                          if you have adapted an original recipe, be sure to mention you have adapted it.

                                                          Question: are you self publishing to share this ebook for free or to sell? If you're selling it, def. acquire written consent to reprint original work. And, call me a stickler here but if the work is not yours, you are not publishing it you are reprinting & distributing the work of others.

                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                            But I'm not reprinting original work - I have re-worked the recipe, I am not copying and printing their instructions, I have just used their amounts and general process (which is not copyrightable). What I am concerned with is if it is more proper to attribute it to the chef from which I obtained the recipe, or if that chef would prefer not to be associated, in which case, I could attribute it generally.

                                                            1. re: momo2000

                                                              momo2000, if you could provide a bit more information, maybe I could be more helpful to you. Are you selling this e cookbook? Or, is this project just for your personal pleasure?

                                                              It's too easy to split hairs btwn what is and isn't original work or part of original work. The fact that you are questioning this should speak volumes.

                                                              So, if you are having any doubts about what you should do, then listen to your gut. Only the author or publisher can tell you if they are okay with you reworking their recipes as printed and reformulating them into an e-cookbook. If it's for profit in any way, I think you can safely assume permissions should be granted. You are knowingly doctoring recipes you like that come from specific printed sources.

                                                              Whether or not this e cookbook is for profit or pleasure IS the question.

                                                              1. re: momo2000

                                                                In your headnote, you can say that this recipe was inspired by xxx or adapted from xxx. Or you can say that many years ago you fell in love with xxx's recipe for yyy and your version, which began with xxx's recipe, has changed over the years but your debt to xxx remains. Something like that. Attribution is always correct, but it should be qualified. xxx has kindly given me permission to copy his recipe here, would be one way. But if you've adapted the recipe to the point where you're worried he won't want to be associated with your version, say "This began with xxx, but I've developed my own version, so blame me, not xxx if you don't like it." Well, you don't want to suggest the readers won't like it, but you do want to say the original guy gets only credit, no blame. That's where your writing skills come into play.

                                                          2. Stealing recipes! That's outrageous! I remember when Cook's Illustrated threatened a blogger, telling her that she stole their recipe for potato salad. Excuse me? That was my grandma's recipe: potatoes, celery, mayonnaise, and etc. I'm going to sue that Kimball turkey, toot-sweet

                                                            1. I talked to a friend of mine that is a patent attorney. Recipes are not patentable nor can you copyright them. However, you can product the processes that you use. The process that you use to make said cake, that no one else can use but if they have another method of making it, it can work. I just started my own business last year, I had change some established recipes and alter some ratios to make them my own. When I asked and researched, recipes just aren't patentable alone and no one can reprint your recipes in a magazine that is protected by copyright law. So, go ahead and use your recipes.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: jenniferfrance

                                                                Are you saying I can take a Martha Stewart recipe for cookies and can make and sell these for profit? The recipe will not be printed anywhere,just the ingred. On the bag.

                                                              2. Recipes (as in the measured list of ingredients) *and* very short directions on how to combine those ingredients are not protected under the various forms of copyright law. This is because they fall under the designation of being the steps in a procedure and they're explicitly excluded from copyright.

                                                                Countries which are signatories to either the Berne convention or the Buenos Aires convention use the same basic standard to determine what is and isn't copyrighted although there are small local variations. However, the exclusion on procedures is not a local variation.

                                                                What *can* be copyrighted are the more complex directions that usually accompany the list of ingredients in modern recipes. As long as you rewrite any directions to be in your own words you've followed the law. Cooking something from a recipe recorded by someone else and selling it is legal.

                                                                That doesn't stop people (including book publishers) from incorrectly claiming more rights than they have either from actual ignorance or to deliberately intimidate others.

                                                                1. Chinese meat cleaver, chocolate, nuts, cookies

                                                                  1. I worked for a health food store in the early 80's and they frequently used published recipes as a starting point for their bakery and deli offerings. But the thing is, if you want to make a quantity that makes sense for sale in a store, you have to adapt that "Serves 6" recipe for a much larger batch and your commercial ovens to such an extent that the final recipe is nothing like the original with a simple multiplier. It takes many test batches to perfect it, and even then it's not quite like the original recipe.

                                                                    People used to ask us for the original recipes all the time. "Yeah, it's Moosewood, Page 163". Then they'd come back and tell us they tried that it was nothing like what we made.