Letter : How to protect a recipe Food copyright not original

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As A food writer I organised in 1987, with various lawyers, a symposium: can dishes be copyrighted? ("Could your gazpacho be a pot of gold?", Real Life, 20 October). We concluded:

1. The literal text of a recipe is automatically protected by copyright, as are photographs.

2. One can protect the name of a dish, like a brand name, as long as it is not simply descriptive, like ravioli aperti.

3. One can protect (part of) a procedure to prepare foodstuffs, if original, by patenting it. This may be done by industries using special machines, etc.

Someone who copies a dish can rarely be taken to court, although it may be possible if direct material interests are damaged, for example if a neighbouring restaurant imitates your menu more cheaply.

But how original is a new dish anyway? Most big chefs stand on the shoulders of other big chefs; they just make new combinations. I recommended the chefs in 1987 to ensure every "original" recipe they gave away bore a logo I designed, indicating they were interested in claiming authorship and protecting their rights. Hardly any chef did.

Johannes van Dam