One of the hoariest chestnuts of copyright law is that a recipe is not copyrightable.
Seemingly unaware of this – or in outright defiance of the law – the plaintiffs in Lorenza v. South American Restaurants Corp. argued to the contrary. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed copyright in a “Pechu Sandwich” recipe consisting of”fried chicken breast patty, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, and garlic mayonnaise on a bun.”
The complaint contained no allegation that the “recipe” for the sandwich was in a form of expression beyond that of a list of ingredients.
The district court dismissed the copyright claim, and the First Circuit made short work of affirming:
Contrary to [plaintiff’s] protests on appeal, the district court properly determined that a chicken sandwich is not eligible for copyright protection. This makes good sense; . . .. A recipe — or any instructions — listing the combination of chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayonnaise on a bun to create a sandwich is quite plainly not a copyrightable work.
The only surprise in this decision is that the First Circuit did not award the defendants costs or attorney’s fees incurred in defending this appeal.