Why no patent or copyright for new food recipes?
A loyal MR reader writes in:
Why do we have IPRs for literature, the arts and music but not for food dishes? Of course, I’m not talking about a copyright on the Ham & Cheese sandwich, I’m talking about innovative new dishes…I’m not arguing that we SHOULD have IPRs for food, just wondering what the big difference is (if any) between the culinary arts and other arts…I realize it would be difficult to enforce such rights at mom & pop type places…but it would be possible to enforce those rights at big name places and large chains.
Food relies so much on execution, or at the national chain level on marketing, that the mere circulation of a recipe does not much diminish the competitive advantage of the creative chef. Try buying a fancy cookbook by a celebrity chef and see how well the food turns out. (In contrast, an MP3 file is a pretty good substitute for a CD.) Most chefs view their cookbooks as augmenting the value of the "restaurant experience" they provide, not diminishing it. Furthermore industry norms, and the work of food critics, will give innovating chefs the proper reputational credit. It is not worth the litigation and vagueness of standards that recipe patents would involve.
Here is a recent article on recipe copyright.
Here is an academic paper on how norm-based copyright governs the current use of recipes. French chefs will ostracize "club members" who copy innovative recipes outright. Now the fashion industry wants IP protection as well.