by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
cooking, copyright, turkey

Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Over Turkey Cooking Instructions

from the eat-up dept

Thanksgiving may be over, but right before the holiday, Greenberg Smoked Turkeys (which, as you might guess, sells turkeys) sued competitor Goode-Cook for copyright infringement, claiming that the following bit of turkey care instructions violated its copyright:
Our turkeys arrive at your door ready to eat. Refrigerate immediately. The turkey will keep in the refrigerator for 6-8 days. If you do not plan to use it in that length of time, it should be frozen.

We recommend that our turkeys are eaten chilled or at room temperature -- just slice and enjoy!

If heating is required, follow these instructions: place turkey in a Reynolds® Oven Bag, which can be bought at your local grocer. Do not add flour to the bag. Cut 6 to 7 small slits in the top of the bag. Heat at 300 degrees for 6 minutes per pound.
What's unclear from the complaint (which we've included after the jump) is whether or not Greenberg actually registered the copyright on this. If it did not, it would greatly limit the likelihood of this lawsuit getting anywhere. It's also not clear if Goode-Cook copied the whole thing or part of it, as the "exhibit" is not included. It actually took a bit of searching, but I think I found the actual website for Goode, and I don't see those instruction anywhere (in fact, there's an entirely different set of instructions), but it's possible that the originals were taken down following the lawsuit.

Of course, the bigger question is whether or not the text above is actually copyrightable. As has been discussed numerous times, you can't copyright a recipe, but might be able to protect "substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions." The question is whether the statements above qualify as "substantial literary expression," beyond just the basic factual description. There might be a few parts where it strays into such territory, but it seems like a very thin amount of copyright coverage there. Furthermore, is there really any argument that the use of this text in any way harms Greenberg? That seems like an even bigger stretch. This seems like a lawsuit based on anger rather than a legitimate copyright claim.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2010 @ 8:58am

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha HA HA HA HAH AH AHA AAH HA HA HAH

    Im sorry, this story is way to damn funny.


    I thought this sounded good! Here is a turkey recipe that also includes the use of popcorn as a stuffing ingredient -- imagine that. When I found this recipe, I thought it was perfect for people like me, who just are not sure how to tell when
    turkey is thoroughly cooked, but not dried out. Give this a try.

    · 8 - 15 lb. Turkey

    · 1 cup melted butter

    · 1 cup stuffing (Pepperidge Farm is good)

    · 1 cup un-popped popcorn (Orville Redenbacher’s low fat is best)

    · Salt/pepper to taste

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush turkey well with melted butter, salt, and pepper.
    2. Fill cavity with stuffing and popcorn. Place in baking pan making sure the neck end is toward the front of the oven, not the back.
    3. After about 4 hours listen for the popping sounds.
    4. When the turkey's ass blows the oven door off and the bird flies across the room... it's done.

    Just another cooking tip from my kitchen to yours,

    Happy Thanksgiving ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2010 @ 9:49am

    Greenberg is in Tyler, TX. I've done IT work for them. The guy running the place is a freaking nut-job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2010 @ 10:35am

    the day the paradigm shifted

    It's the phrase "Do not add flour to the bag" that makes a difference here. Everybody knows you are supposed to add flour to the bag to prevent it from bursting, and Reynolds' instructions always tell you to do this. By not adding flour to the bag, this recipe presents a significantly new expression of the concept of turkey baking, and as such, should be not only protected by copyright, but also patentable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2010 @ 12:03pm

    The bar for "originality" sufficient to claim copyright is extremely low. I think the quoted text, as a whole, is sufficiently "original" to warrant copyright protection under the law.

    Of course, if they only copies portions, they might not have a case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2010 @ 12:31pm

    FWIW, there's a copyright registration, which appears to be of record as of November 29, 2010, (VA0001747721 / 2010-11-29) for '', and that's the website where this text appears. So, they seem to have managed some form of registration, but they've also made it quite unlikely they'll get statutory damages or their attorney fees (and try to prove actual damages out of this thing...). So, this will settle, and for not much money. Thus, apart from spite, not sure what this achieves (other than laugh fodder).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    misterdoug (profile), 3 Dec 2010 @ 12:04am

    I don't know if I want to live in a world where turkey cooking instructions aren't considered substantial literary expression. How can we expect to make progress if people have no motivation to write high quality product instructions? Oh wait, it works for IKEA. Nevermind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    robster, 3 Dec 2010 @ 10:03am

    I thought those instructions looked familiar when I read it...

    my feelings on this lawsuit notwithstanding, we ordered our Thanksgiving turkey from Greenberg this year and it was really good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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