I’ve developed a sensational new recipe. Can I copyright it?

Cooking ingredients on a table

Well there’s a question and one which surprisingly does not have a straightforward answer. The law when it comes to copyrighting recipes is, to a certain extent, largely untested so the simple answer to the question could be yes, but equally, it could be no.

Copyright for written recipes

When it comes to writing recipes, is almost impossible to copyright a list of ingredients. However, the way the recipe is written and the methods used are most definitely copyrighted and you cannot reproduce a recipe in its entirety without permission. Once you have written your own recipe on your blog or in a cookery book, or in any form of print media, then in the UK copyright is assumed. You would be protected if somebody simply copy and pasted your recipe, methodology and photos from your publication.

Considerations when reproducing another recipe

There is also the misconception that if someone reproduces a recipe then they are assisting an author promote their book or publication by showing everyone how fabulous their recipes are. Whilst this is well meaning, it is not usually the case. Imagine if every blogger chose to blog just one recipe from that book – there would be no point anyone actually buying the book if it’s all online for free! You could also be standing in the way of exclusivity agreements that authors and publishers have established with other sites or publications.

That being said there is some credence to the argument that the more the recipe is produced the more it may promote other recipes in a publication. Many food writers would be happy to allow the use of their recipe recipes as long as they are given a credit for it and perhaps a link back if it is reproduced digitally. If your recipe is significantly adapted, and by this we mean changing several ingredients or the methods used, then it is considered good practice to credit the source it is adapted it from, but technically the re-publisher need not ask permission. 

When it comes to using photos that are yours credit must always be given where necessary. 

Cases of recipe theft

Sadly, for bloggers and food writers, there are more and more incidents occurring of content theft. In some cases, bloggers are even finding their recipes appearing in e-books being sold on sites such as Amazon. This can be very distressing when all of the effort and time has been put into your publication. However, there are several steps you can take to try and handle the situation quickly and effectively.

How to proceed when your content has been reproduced without your consent

If you find that the republication of your recipe is in hard copy form you should contact the publisher in the first instance. If you find your content has been reproduced online without your permission, firstly you should try and contact the website owner and request your content is taken down immediately. If you have no luck with this then try contacting the company who hosts the website, informing them of the copyright infringement, and giving as much detail as you can. They have the power to suspend the account of the offenders and often take complaints very seriously. After all, they are unlikely to want to be subject to a breach of copyright claim themselves.

If none of this works then you can file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act claim with Google, who can remove the site from their search engines. Google have their own policy and form for reporting copyright infringement. In extreme cases, you can instruct a lawyer and initiate formal legal proceedings, issuing a cease and desist letter.

In all cases it is important to stay calm and approach the parties involved in a professional manner, stating clearly and politely what it is you want from them. No matter how frustrating and upsetting it is, try to avoid losing your temper, becoming aggressive or calling them out on public forums. Remember, most cases can be resolved successfully at the first step.

For matters of intellectual property and copyright law why not contact one of Alexander JLO’s expert commercial lawyers to see what we can do for you?

This blog was prepared by Alexander JLO’s senior partner, Peter Johnson on the 31st March 2020 and is correct at the time of publication. With decades of experience in almost all areas of law, Peter is happy to assist with any legal issue that you have. His profile on the independent Review Solicitor website can be found Here

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