Should You Be Able to Copyright a Recipe?

French Broad's factory door

French Broad's factory door

Last week a writer and editor at Serious Eats accused BuzzFeed of copying his recipe for halal-cart chicken and rice. This may not seem like it has anything to do with bean-to-bar chocolate, but it does.

I’ve wondered for years why you can’t copyright or trademark a recipe. Now, before the lawyers start quoting obscure statutes and caveats at me, I know, I know: You. Can’t.

The issue at hand is one of integrity.

But indulge me for a minute. A recipe, especially one used to make chocolate, is intellectual property. Many bean-to-bar makers have slaved over a hot machine trying to figure out the right temperature to roast beans, how long to roast, how long to grind and refine, how long to conche — and built or refurbished their own machinery to do it. Beyond that, each maker has her own “recipe” of how much cocoa butter to add (if she adds it, which many do), making her 70 percent chocolate bar uniquely different from another 70 percent bar.

Some makers have said that they feel their trade secrets can be stolen, while others say that merely having a recipe or watching someone make it once or twice doesn’t mean you can replicate it to the nth degree.

What do you think? Tell me at or on Facebook or Twitter and I’ll include your comments in the next Chocolate Today.

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