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Culinary partnership cooks up a court copyright battle

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Recipe books may lead to good meals and copyright battles as well.

That happened between Rosemarie I. Carroll and Larry Moore who were partners for restaurant Tomaydo-Tomahhdo Express L.L.C. and a delivery catering business that ultimately led to a copyright disagreement.

Mr. Moore conceived hit recipes for the restaurant's menu, according to Tuesday's ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals in Tomaydo-Tomahhdo L.L.C. et al. v. George Vozary, et al.

Ms. Carroll and Mr. Moore parted ways in 2007, with Mr. Moore signing a share purchase agreement agreeing to return all recipes to Ms. Carroll. Mr. Moore opened a catering business in 2011.

In 2012, Ms. Carroll assembled a recipe book based on Mr. Moore's recipes and applied for copyright protection in 2014. She then sued Mr. Moore for copyright infringement, among other charges, claiming he was using the recipes in his catering business.

But to prove copyright infringement creativity must be involved, and there is nothing creative about a mere collection of recipes, said a three-judge appeals court panel in Cincinnati in affirming a lower court ruling dismissing the case.

It may have been different had the collection included “musings about the spiritual nature of cooking,” said the ruling, in quoting another court decision. But the plaintiffs have “not shown that any aspect of their recipe book is original and would therefore enjoy copyright protection.”