Thursday, June 28, 2007, 6/28/2007 08:33:00 AM

Restaurant Trade Secrets?

From the New York Times (subscription req'd), a story of two feuding restaurateurs and claims of unfair copying and trade secrets.

The combatants are Rebecca Charles, owner of the Pearl Oyster Bar in New York's West Village, and Ed McFarland, chef and co-owner of Ed's Lobster Bar which Rebecca considers a knock-off. Ed was Rebecca's sous-chef at Pearl for six years.

As the New York Times puts it:

In recent years, a handful of chefs and restaurateurs have invoked intellectual property concepts, including trademarks, patents and trade dress — the distinctive look and feel of a business — to defend their restaurants, their techniques and even their recipes, but most have stopped short of a courtroom. The Pearl Oyster Bar suit may be the most aggressive use of those concepts by the owner of a small restaurant. Some legal experts believe the number of cases will grow as chefs begin to think more like chief executives.

The trade secrets portion of the claim apparently revolves around "Ed's Caesar Salad" which Rebecca claims is based on her Mom's recipe and which Rebecca taught Ed. It calls for a coddled egg and English muffin croutons.

Sounds like a tough case to make. No doubt, though, it's a good Caesar Salad.

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