The legalities and ethics of recipe copying
The legalities and ethics of recipe copying is a subject often considered and discussed amongst Cookipedia authors. This extract from Modernist Cuisine. The Art and Science of Cooking, Volume 1: Volume 1 - History and Fundamentals ISBN 978-0982761007, has an interesting clarification of this dilemma.
The paragraphs below follows a detailed example of one modernist chef duplicating another chefs menu in its entirety.
Unfortunately, chefs have little legal recourse in cases such as this, because in most countries copyright laws restrict only the publication of cookbooks or recipes elaborated with commentary or detailed guidance; neither copying the simple list of ingredients nor making the dishes themselves is covered. Most artists retain the copyright to individual works: writers own their short stories, photographers own their images, and composers own their songs, even when these works appear on the Internet. Chefs do not have the same kind of ownership of their recipes. Thus, copying in cuisine is mostly a question of professional ethics.
Chefs can, however, patent their recipes or technological innovations if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office agrees that the idea is truly novel. Getting a patent can be costly and may take years, but some Modernist chefs, notably Homaro Cantu of Moto in Chicago, have applied for such patents. Cantu's famous "printed food" even contains a legal notice:"Confidential Property of and © H. Cantu. Patent Pending. No further use or disclosure is permitted without prior approval of H. Cantu."