Language really is a many-splendoured thing – full of marvel and magnificence. Recently, I’ve been marvelling at the magnificence of the rules and regulations surrounding the use of certain words like “Fresh”, “Natural”, “Traditional”, “Original”, “Authentic”, “Real” and “Genuine” not to mention, “Home made”, “Farmhouse”, “Hand-made” and a number of others. I’ve also been marvelling at the startling lack of words about protecting the intellectual property of products and recipes.
To say there’s been a bit written on the subject of plagiarism and the copying of product would be bit like saying there’s one or two chefs on the telly these days. However, and sadly, there is very little legal protection for recipes or products. Recipes aren’t covered by copyright – you can’t protect a list of ingredients which is why food manufacturers are rightly cautious about the QUID Regulations requiring the declaration of percentages of ingredients on product labels in case they get copied by competitors.
The Declaration of Independence is written in 1,458 words, Magna Carta is a bit longer at about 3,600 words but try the Food Standards Agency publication, “Criteria for the use of the terms Fresh, Pure, Natural etc. in Food Labelling”, and it weighs in at an impressive 9,178 words over 32 Pages. All explaining the finer points of whether it’s permissible to use the word ‘Natural’ (among the others listed above) lest the consumer be misled. So as you know, according to Clause 51, ‘“Natural” means essentially that the product is comprised of natural ingredients, e.g. ingredients produced by nature, not the work of man or interfered with by man…’ and so it goes on for another 1770 words and 7 clauses – all to explain what “natural” means and why you’ll be spanked by Nanny State if you use it wrongly.
For the full story, look no further than “A reference to Food Composition and Labelling Legislation – Food Standards Training Manual”, which provides the inside track to Trading Standards Officers so they can determine the level of naughtiness food producers have stooped to in bringing us various concoctions and confections. It’s a magnificently marvellous 81, 314 words over 292 pages. Awesome.
And yet, in all this governmental wordage there’s not one word of protection for the actual creators of product. True food manufacturers and innovators still have no legal protection over what they conjure up and strive to perfect. Sure, it’s possible to patent a recipe but to do so necessitates full disclosure which, as soon as you change 1 milligramme of one ingredient or 1 minute of time in process, Bingo! a brand recipe is born that negates all of that patent malarkey. Whoopee for lazy indolent copy cats everywhere riding on the coat tails of those blessed with imagination, creativity and sheer bloody mindedness to carve a path for others to follow with me-too look-a-likes. Bit like a tribute band. Flattering imitation but no creativity.
As for blatant theft of recipes and techniques by those without original thought there’s not a great deal that can be done except relish in the fact that revenge is a dish best served cold and that’s one recipe that needs no protection. All hail the Genuine, Original, Authentic and Real alchemists of food inspired by everything they see, taste, feel and touch to bring us the richness of inventiveness that keeps our souls fed and our stomachs happy.