Intellectual Property Fights Move Into The Restaurant Business

from the ugh dept

When trying to explain the problems of today's intellectual property system, it's often useful to use pizza shops as an example. Competition is natural. No one, the idea goes, should feel that a competitor opening up a pizza shop down the street somehow "infringes" on another pizza shop. It's just basic competition -- the same type that has helped grow and benefit society for ages. However, in our over-lawyered age where suddenly everyone is looking for ways to apply the monopoly powers of intellectual property law to their own business, this may be changing. Just like there's a push underway to introduce new monopoly rights into the fashion industry in spite of (or, in fact, because of) a thriving competitive market, it appears that lawyers are now looking to do the same in the restaurant business. The NY Times writes about a restaurant owner who is suing the owner of a competing restaurant. It is true that the second owner used to work for the first, but saying he then cannot open a competing restaurant is ridiculous (and, is pretty clearly allowed by the law).

There are some amazingly ridiculous statements in the article. For example, the owner of the first restaurant, Rebecca Charles, is most upset by the fact that the owner of the second, Ed McFarland, offers a Caesar salad that Charles insists McFarland copied from her recipe. Of course, even she admits that her mother got that recipe from another restaurant, but doesn't seem to note the irony of then claiming ownership of it herself. Also, Charles admits that she based the idea for her restaurant on another restaurant. Looking at the menu for Charles' restaurant shows that she sells New England Clam Chowder... clearly invented by others. Is she paying up for that intellectual property? Of course not. The law is pretty clear on this one that she has no case -- and that's for a good reason. Imagine if there could be only one pizza shop in all of New York. Or only one oyster bar. That's ridiculous and would harm just about everyone. However, in this age where monopoly rights are bizarrely considered a good thing, it's no surprise that we're seeing a push to go in that direction.

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  1. identicon
    Felix the Cat, 29 Jun 2007 @ 8:42pm

    Restaurant intellectual property

    So she claims her Caesar Salad is protected intellectual property. Is she not aware that Caesar Salad was invented by Cesar Cardenas, who ran a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, said restaurant still operating to this day. The name has nothing to do with Julius Caesar. The whole story is told on the label of Cardenas Cesar Dressing, available at many US supermarkets, complete with photo of the founder. Is she paying Cardenas or his heirs for modifying his basic recipe and using his trade name. I doubt it.

    Can you spell hypocrite? I knew you could.

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