Wednesday, October 11, 2006

IP in the Kitchen

Claiming copyright in recipes is only the beginning. This article in the November issue of Food & Wine discusses recent attempts by chefs to protect their intellectual property.

It’s an image of cheerful pink cotton candy printed on a tiny sheet of edible paper that tastes like cotton candy. The paper measures roughly two-by-2.75-by-zero inches[.] The truly historic feature of Cantu’s two-dimensional treat is the legal notice printed beneath the cotton-candy image:

Confidential Property of and © H. Cantu. Patent
Pending. No further use or disclosure is permitted
without prior approval of H. Cantu.

[Cantu] has already filed 12 applications for patents, including one detailing the process for making cotton-candy paper, and says there are more to come.

Cantu may talk to his lawyer more often than John Gotti, Jr., does. Together they have filed patent applications for a fork that adds flavor to food and a polymer box with walls that, once heated, retains enough energy to cook a fish filet.

Cantu requires almost everyone who enters his kitchen to sign a four-page nondisclosure agreement. He says he runs background checks on some potential cooks to make sure they’ re culinary school graduates and not corporate spies, and he uses caller ID just in case that party of two looking for a table next Thursday night is phoning from Burger King headquarters. Cantu says his closed-door policy mainly applies to big business. He’s generally happy to talk techniques with fellow chefs. Sometimes, though, even they can’t be trusted.

Moto, where Cantu is the chef, certainly plays up the novelty of his approach to IP protection. Commentary from megnut. I can't believe that Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame is not mentioned in the Food & Wine article. Ferran Adria article from February 2005 Food & Wine. There was also a great episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations which featured Adria.



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