Can a recipe for a lobster roll or a Caesar salad be protected intellectual property? The answer's yes, at least if you ask Rebecca Charles. As the New York Times reports Charles, the chef and owner of the Pearl Oyster Bar in Nw York City, is suing Ed McFarland, chef and co-owner of Ed's Lobster Bar in SoHo and her sous-chef at Pearl for six years.
"The suit, which seeks unspecified financial damages from Mr. McFarland and the restaurant itself, charges that Ed's Lobster Bar copies 'each and every element' of Pearl Oyster Bar," the Times reports, "including the white marble bar, the gray paint on the wainscoting, the chairs and bar stools with their wheat-straw backs, the packets of oyster crackers placed at each table setting and the dressing on the Caesar salad."
The salad is a big deal to Charles, who showed McFarland how to make her version of the storied Caesar when he worked at Pearl. The Times quotes Charles as saying: "When I taught him, I said, 'You will never make this anywhere else."
Her lawyers reportedly compare the salad recipe to the formula for Coca Cola.
"Mr. McFarland called the allegation that he was a Caesar salad thief 'a pretty ridiculous claim," the Times says. (To read the full article, click here.)
What do you think? Is a lobster roll recipe bona fide intellectual property or it Rebecca Charles's overreaching? Even if McFarland is a copycat—and I'm not saying he is—is he worth suing?
Last updated: Jun 29, 2007
MIKE HOFMAN was previously editor of Inc.com and a deputy editor at Inc. magazine, which he joined in 1996. The site was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Digital Media in 2010, and was named the best business website by Folio Magazine. In 2006, Hofman was part of a team of writers nominated for a Webby Award for best business blog. He lives in New York City. @mikehofman