Recipe Book Compilation is Not Protected by Copyright

In the recent case of Tomaydo-Tomahhdo v Vozary (case No. 15-3179, Sixth Circuit Court Of Appeals, Oct. 2015)(Opinion Available Here), the Court reviewed a grant of summary judgment, dismissing the underlying case based upon whether or not a recipe book was entitled to copyright protection for the compilation. The case involved to former business partners, who after parting ways, the rights to the recipes were purchased by Plaintiff.  Tomaydo sued Defendants for copyright infringement alleging that Defendants were using those recipes as part of a catering business.

The district court determined that the Tomaydo’s claims of copyright failed to demonstrate that there was any creative work in the recipe book. The district court further noted that there were material differences between the dishes in the two parties recipes. The Sixth Circuit, in reviewing the claim, explained that copyright infringement has two elements which include, (1) the plaintiff must prove they owned a copyright on the work and (2) that the defendant copied that work. The Sixth Circuit explained that facts cannot be copyrighted but the compilations of facts generally can be. The court noted that a compilation’s selection and arrangement if produced in an original way can be entitled to copyright protection. However that protection only extends to the original aspect of the compilation.  

Tomaydo asserted that the recipe book was creative based upon the trial and error process for developing the recipes. Tomaydo believed that this was the selection coordination and arrangement necessary to demonstrate creativity. Additionally, Tomaydo believes that the menu was purposely arranged and ordered in a particular way and that the items were chosen in coordination with each other.

In reviewing this information the appeals court determined that the recipes themselves do not enjoy copyright protection and that the list of ingredients are merely factual statements as shown by a long list of case law. As a result the Court determined that plaintiff must show the recipe book is a compilation that was actually original. Ultimately, the Court determined that Tomaydo did not point anything demonstrating that the book was original in compilation. Specifically, the Court stated “Tomaydo never identifies what is original and creative about their process.” The Court determined that Tomaydo failed to identify any creative manner in connection with the recipe book. As a result the Court affirmed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment.

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