The Chicago Tribune reports that a lawsuit filed by Fraiche bakery in Evanston, Illinois against a former chef over a binder containing key recipes was quickly settled. Fraiche alleged that the recipes were property of the bakery and that the chef improperly took the binder when she left. The chef, however, told the press that the recipes were not “secrets” and that she obtained them from the public domain (cook books, the Internet, etc.). She added that she compiled the recipes on her own time and at her own expense and that its very common for chefs to collect their own recipes. The bakery owner’s husband, though, called this ”a lie” and said his wife changed ingredients or their measurements. See the entire report here.
This curious episode underscores that recipes are generally not protectable under intellectual property laws and that companies must safeguard such recipes as trade secrets in order to prevent their use by others.
According to Law360, Sara Lee Corp. and Tyson Foods, Inc. resolved their dispute near the closing of a bench trial on Sara Lee’s claim that one of its former plant manager who defected to Tyson Foods would disclose trade secrets on sliced lunch meat production processes. Central to this claim was the allegation that, after being offered the job by Tyson, the plant manager downloaded proprietary information from Sara Lee’s computer network onto four thumb drives. The defense, however, argued that the alleged trade secrets were too diffuse to be carried away by one person and that the plan manager did not have the level of responsibility that Sara Lee alleged.
Details of the settlement were not disclosed. The case is Sara Lee Corp. v. Vincent W. Burns II et al., case no. 1:11-cv-07577, pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. See full article here.
Nanowerk.com recently posted an overview of nanotechnology applications currently being researched, tested and in some cases applied in food technology. Check it out here. As with GMOs, there have been, and no doubt will be, concerns voiced about the safety of food products made using nanotechnology. For food companies, a key issue will be balancing their rights in trade secrets and proprietary know-how associated with nanotechnology with the inevitable demands for public disclosure of such technology by consumers and public interest groups. Stay tuned.