Copyright a Cookbook, not a Recipe

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reaffirmed that base recipes are not copyrightable – but yet there is a booming cookbook industry. What gives?

Recipes do not fall into the statutory copyright protection because they are combinations of facts, amounts and ingredients that are non-copyrightable, and instructions – that are functional and also not copyrightable.

Cookbooks gain protection as they almost invariably contain pictures, stories, and florid descriptions of the food. It’s this collateral (and potentially the organization and layout) that give cookbooks copyright protection.