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Who Owns a Baker's Recipes?


chefpeon
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Good luck on all counts!

I've never been a professional chef or baker, but have been in similar situations in different "intellectual property" industries. My advice is to take the high road. You won't regret it. You'll know that you've done the right thing, and anyone who knows you will know. They probably won't be able to duplicate the products without you, anyway. I know it's tempting to say "what's mine is mine" or to want to get even, but karma has a way of catching up...

{{{{{Hugs, cause you need 'em}}}}}

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Though I don't work in the food industry and never have, I have been around the block a few times and had some dreadful bosses.  All I can say to you is that the momentary sense of satisfaction that taking your recipes with you will provide is just that -- momentary.  The bridges you may unknowingly burn will haunt you for much longer.  Go in peace and remind yourself that what goes around comes around.  Put all of your strength and determination into finding a position that brings you satisfaction - don't waste an iota of it in seeking redress.

I tend to agree with Anna.

I left my "very cheesy Pay cheque" half a year ago but what i did was in The Securities Brokerage business", what you made there is theirs.

But when it comes to cooking n baking ( i did it for hobbies and donated what i got), i set my mind neutral.anyone i like or dislike can take them or can ask and i am willing to explain.

I enjoy the world of learning, exploring and creating new things ( someting makes me believe you'd enjoy this side of life as well). Most important of all, no single recipe can be made exactly by two persons...it is each individual's blessing.

You do have your own blessings. i know this will pass and you will be back a happy creative chef again.

Again, i am touched by Anna's thoughts.

Please take care.

iii

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No one can 'own' a recipe. You can take away your recipes if you wish, they can't do a thing about it except try stealing them (copying them from your book) from you, in which case you couldn't do anything about that. That's why my important recipes are never (ever) written on paper - they're all in my head (or locked away at home). I never let my employers get hold of my recipes. I also never take recipes with me from a job (I haven't seen any worth taking anyway...).

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Oh dear.... I hope your employers aren't treading lightly because they've been reading here..... :unsure:

In a similar vein, it may be that because you're so free with personal info here (and I mean that in the nicest way possible :smile: ) it may be that you have been at work as well so everyone is being nice to you in anticipation of good medical results. :smile:

Whatever the case may be, timing is everything and everything happens for a reason. You obviously weren't meant to quit this week, even though it felt like you were.

Best of luck to you, in good time.

~ Sugar..... also shaking in anticipation of decent medical results. :wacko:

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Oh dear.... I hope your employers aren't treading lightly because they've been reading here..... unsure.gif

No danger of that! They hate computers and will have nothing to do with them. They have one at home, but only their teenage granddaughter uses it. In fact, whenever they need "technical assistance" they call me. All our invoices are hand written and all the books are on paper. Strange for me, since I was so used to using Quickbooks in my other jobs.

Anyway.....here's an update on the situation, for those who wanna know....

My cat has returned....miraculously. After 7 days, he showed up at the door....extremely hungry.

Have NO IDEA where he was! Maybe up a tree.

Biopsy results.....still don't have them. Turns out my doc went on vacation THE DAY the results were due in his office. He won't be back til the 21st. This waiting is driving me crazy.

Job.....finally told boss I wasn't happy there, burned out, and wanted to leave. Told him I'd stay til the rest of the crew was "competent enough" to carry on without me. (I meant competent to his standards, not mine....if they were to be competent enough to my standards, I'd be putting them through "Annie Culinary Academy"). He gave me a counter-offer. He suggested that maybe I could just work 3 days a week, manage my "crew", get them set up, make their task lists, train them to do things I haven't yet trained them to do, order ingredients and supplies, and make the "complicated" stuff. I make a special cake once a month for one of our accounts (our biggest), and he doesn't want to lose that. He also said it would be too difficult for him to run the place without me (a needed ego stroke, I admit). He said maybe I should give it a try...see how I like it. If I still want to leave, he said he'd understand.

I never did get a chance to say anything about how I felt about the quality control on his end, as I feel he lets things go out of that kitchen that should never see the light of day. As Pam R says, it IS his business, but it's also MY reputation. In a small town, everyone KNOWS where you work, and all product is attributed to you, whether you've actually made it or not. I'm sure a lot of you pros know, protecting your reputation is pretty darn important in this biz.

On a personal level, a three day work week is pretty darn appealing. I've liked it so far, in the two weeks that I've done it. I work Mon, Tues, and Wed....the slowest days of the week. I get a LOT done, since I'm working by myself, I get all the product ordered, I'm able to write detailed task lists for the crew, and I have them completely set up to rock and roll when they come in. I never leave them in the weeds. Any chaos and confusion they may experience never will be because I set them up for failure; it will be because my boss tells them to do things I have specifically warned them NOT to do and I can't control that. As employees they have to do what he tells them, even though it may not make sense. That whole deal is one of the reasons that I'm so frustrated there. I tell my boss (who is NOT a baker) exactly why I do what I do and it mostly just goes over his head. He doesn't understand and doesn't WANT to understand, so he just goes back to doing stuff his way because that's "how he's always done it". Talk about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks.......IT DRIVES ME NUTS.

So, by only working Mon, Tues, and Wed, I'm spared the busy Thursday and Friday large order/confusion debacle which usually sent my stress level through the roof. I don't have to deal with it anymore, so now I've had two weeks of almost "inner peace".

I still struggle with the feeling that maybe I "sold out". I sort of feel that I should have stuck to my guns and refused to have anything to do with a place that doesn't mind putting out inferior product when errors happen. Of course I know that the only way things would ever be my way would be if I owned my own business. In my own business, I would rather short a customer than to sell them a crappy product. I'm sure anyone would appreciate being told that they didn't receive something they ordered because it wasn't good enough rather than to receive something they couldn't sell or would get complaints.

And, regarding the real topic of this thread......contributing recipes/recipe "ownership".

Seems to be a subject of some debate from what I've read!

Here's my take on it:

I think it's great to share recipes.....I mean that's why I shared my personal recipes with the place I work for, because I want to contribute something valuable and appreciated. Recipes don't do much just sitting in a recipe file remaining a huge secret for no one to enjoy.

As a professional PC, these are more than "just recipes". They come from years of tweaking and perfecting. They are my work, my reputation, my "edible resume". The downside is, that when you contribute something to a business (that isn't your own), you rarely get the credit for it. The business gets the credit for it.....they get to cash in on your knowledge and contribution. Of course you get the satisfaction in knowing you make a wonderful product and you get to see the business grow because of your work, but you don't get any extra money for it, or any direct credit attributed to you, and usually this is ok.....if you're happy with your job and how you're treated.

But it becomes a sore spot when you feel you've given them all you've got and they haven't lived up to their end of the deal. You feel screwed, taken advantage of and extremely frustrated. This is where I was when I started this thread. It's not like I was asking for the moon....all I wanted was for them to care about quality as much as I do. I found it extremely strange (and still do) that although I'm "just the employee" I'm far more concerned with quality control and customer service than the OWNERS are. I have been on the phone quite a few times apologizing to customers for mistakes the BOSS makes, not me. It's demoralizing.

I felt that they didn't deserve my contributions anymore (ie. my recipes). That's why I wanted to "take them back" when I made plans to leave for good. I didn't want my "babies" to be associated with their poor business practices! So....this is a valuable lesson for me.....and maybe something for a lot of you to think about.

From this point on in my career, I will definitely think twice before offering up my best stuff if I'm working for someone else. I think in general, it's best that you make stuff they tell you to make, or have them do their own recipe research. If they do ask me to develop a recipe, I will do it specifically for them and leave it there. My own stuff will stay with me and I will use it when I do stuff independently or for my own business.

As for my current situation, all the stuff I contributed will stay there even when I do leave eventually. Except, as I said, for my coconut macaroons. My name is actually on them, so that will definitely go with me. The recipe is permanently in my head and I have removed it from the book, so if they want to continue making a coconut macaroon, they'll have to come up with their own thing.....not hard.

Sorry to be so long-winded, but every story needs a final chapter! :raz:

I also want to say, y'all have been so supportive and kind. I appreciate all the PM's.

You guys are great! :wub:

Edited by chefpeon (log)
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I find the denouement to this story quite fascinating.

I don't believe that anyone even considered a compromise, and I believe you got that compromise by being honest. I think it's best to be honest and professional and keep your sense of self untainted by the shortcomings of others.

I believe when you developed the recipes for your employer, you did that from an honest position, too, you were doing your best.

I'm delighted that your cat returned, there's a lesson there, I think, about not giving up hope.

And I sincerely wish that your biopsy comes back clear.

And I hope that in the future you'll be able to work somewhere where quality matters and your creative talents are appreciated.

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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This may not be exactly on food topic but I would effing shoot my effing doctor. I daresay if I could find a friggin phone number where he was at, I'd call his sorry ass and politely request my results. How dare he go on vacation and leave anyone waiting--not to mention my cake-buddy. Ok ok << I mentioned food therefore I'm on topic kinda sorta :rolleyes:

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I'd be right there with you, K8, re the Dr.

Grrrrrr. Went thru that process this year - waiting sux.

Annie, I think you made the right decision regarding the recipes. There's nothing to stop you using those recipes for your own business as well, but removing them from your current employer would have reflected very poorly on you. 1: its a bad feeling 2: it leads to bad references. (re the macaroons, I agree with that call too).

If you decide the 3-days still isnt working out, Pontormo's exit interview (bottom of page 1) is brilliant, and will get you rave reviews if anyone calls your then=ex boss for a reference. Plus, its all true.

as for selling out - I understand the frustration with the boss, personality, and relative degrees of perfectionism - but to keep goign til you find something better, remember it aint called "play". (Still, after 18 months of reciting to myself - "this is what they pay me for, this is what they pay me for", I about cried tears of joy to get transferred). Good luck whichever way it goes.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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The more I think about your situation, the more I am convinced of the following:

- You have a right to take the ideas and recipes with you. You developed them, they're your intellectual property, and you could probably "take" them without taking them, since you created them and know them intimately.

- You do not have a right to deprive your employer of the recipes. They paid for your brain, experience and materials, and provided the environment in which you developed and/or refined the recipes. They have a right to retain them. Never mind that it will make you look awfully bad and lead to terrible references, as Kouign Aman notes above.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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A few comments...

Re the legalities of recipes: if you should decide to take them with you (leaving the employer empty-handed) when you leave, consult an attorney first. There are often nuances to situations like yours that make them, as far as legal aspects go, not what they appear to be to a layperson. (Trust me.) Sometimes it's because laws vary from state to state, and sometimes it's because of particular events that have transpired. A competent lawyer will question you to find out the scope of your situation and advise you accordingly. Don't go for the cheapest attorney you can find. You get what you pay for.

You do want to avoid a lawsuit. They are expensive, exhausting, and horrible. Getting a couple hundred bucks (or less) worth of legal advice before taking action may save you lots and lots of grief later. The attorney may also be able to give you helpful advice for how to stay out of this situation in the future.

Ethics-wise, I'd leave them. Your helpers aren't competent enough to really compete with you, and it wouldn't surprise me if they ditch them after awhile in favor of something simpler, and of lower quality, of course. Few people ever regret taking the high road. And you never know when a good recommendation from this employer will put you in a great job down the road. Think of them as a legacy; a young pastry chef may run across them one day, and you will have helped someone else get a good start. But my money's really with the idea that the people who have them, won't have the ability to appreciate them.

As for the doctor: if he or she is in practice with a partner, demand to see the partner immediately to learn the results. Last resort: see a different doctor in a different clinic, and have that physician call your doctor or the lab for the results. There's really no excuse for leaving a patient hanging for a cancer diagnosis while a doctor is on vacation. Do make sure your doctor understands how insensitive this is. I had a similar scare once, and I had to wait only from Friday afternoon to Monday morning to get an answer. Just that long was excruciating. :angry::angry::angry:

Very happy to hear that the cat came back! At least ONE thing in your life is going well! :laugh:

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Your physician has a moral and ethical responsibility to get those results to you in a timely manner. This leaves the practitioner open to litigation and, if I was in his/her shoes, I'd be more careful and sensitive to these situations. We never schedule breast biopsies on Friday, simply to aviod the long, agonizing wait over the weekend, for results. Positive thoughts for you, negative for the biopsy.

Raoul

"I drink to make other people interesting".

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A few comments...

Re the legalities of recipes:  if you should decide to take them with you (leaving the employer empty-handed) when you leave, consult an attorney first.  There are often nuances to situations like yours that make them, as far as legal aspects go, not what they appear to be to a layperson.  (Trust me.)  Sometimes it's because laws vary from state to state, and sometimes it's because of particular events that have transpired.  A competent lawyer will question you to find out the scope of your situation and advise you accordingly.  Don't go for the cheapest attorney you can find.  You get what you pay for.

You do want to avoid a lawsuit.  They are expensive, exhausting, and horrible.  Getting a couple hundred bucks (or less) worth of legal advice before taking action may save you lots and lots of grief later.  The attorney may also be able to give you helpful advice for how to stay out of this situation in the future.

Ethics-wise, I'd leave them.  Your helpers aren't competent enough to really compete with you, and it wouldn't surprise me if they ditch them after awhile in favor of something simpler, and of lower quality, of course.  Few people ever regret taking the high road. And you never know when a good recommendation from this employer will put you in a great job down the road.  Think of them as a legacy; a young pastry chef may run across them one day, and you will have helped someone else get a good start.  But my money's really with the idea that the people who have them, won't have the ability to appreciate them.

I think jdm some very good points. I want to add: I think recipes can be patented but then they become public knowledge when you submit them to the patent office. Also, it is probably best to keep them as trade secrets but that mean not sharing them like coke does with its secret formula. If you share the recipes there is nothing stopping anyone from using them. Following jgm's advice, the next time you enter a place create a contract to formalize the relationship with your "created" capital. You can then charge a fee for access to your trade secret, otherwise just choose a simple recipe knowing that they did not pay for the specialized knowledge capital but just plain ordinary recipe.

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A few comments...

Re the legalities of recipes:  if you should decide to take them with you (leaving the employer empty-handed) when you leave, consult an attorney first.  There are often nuances to situations like yours that make them, as far as legal aspects go, not what they appear to be to a layperson.  (Trust me.)  Sometimes it's because laws vary from state to state, and sometimes it's because of particular events that have transpired.  A competent lawyer will question you to find out the scope of your situation and advise you accordingly.  Don't go for the cheapest attorney you can find.  You get what you pay for.

You do want to avoid a lawsuit.  They are expensive, exhausting, and horrible.  Getting a couple hundred bucks (or less) worth of legal advice before taking action may save you lots and lots of grief later.  The attorney may also be able to give you helpful advice for how to stay out of this situation in the future.

Ethics-wise, I'd leave them.  Your helpers aren't competent enough to really compete with you, and it wouldn't surprise me if they ditch them after awhile in favor of something simpler, and of lower quality, of course.  Few people ever regret taking the high road. And you never know when a good recommendation from this employer will put you in a great job down the road.  Think of them as a legacy; a young pastry chef may run across them one day, and you will have helped someone else get a good start.  But my money's really with the idea that the people who have them, won't have the ability to appreciate them.

I think jdm some very good points. I want to add: I think recipes can be patented but then they become public knowledge when you submit them to the patent office.

Theoretically you can patent a recipe, but it costs a lot of money, and a patent will only be granted if the technique or product is considered truly novel and nonobvious. When this issue first came up, I briefly searched patents at the US Trademark and Patent office, and couldn't find a single patent on a recipe like the kind you might find in a cookbook. Most of the patents I found were for things like methods for producing pork patties or instant pudding.

Most law firms would charge $5-10,000 to even file a patent application with the USPTO, and of course there is no gaurantee the patent will be granted. And then if you ever wanted to sue someone for infringing on your patent, that would cost more money, and there's no gaurantee of success. It appears to me that for the average professional baker/pastry person, the only way to keep you recipes is simply not to share them, but even then there is no way to prevent someone else from "reverse engineering" your bright ideas.

Edited by Patrick S (log)

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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Theoretically you can patent a recipe, but it costs a lot of money, and a patent will only be granted if the technique or product is considered truly novel and nonobvious. When this issue first came up, I briefly searched patents at the US Trademark and Patent office, and couldn't find a single patent on a recipe like the kind you might find in a cookbook.  Most of the patents I found were for things like methods for producing pork patties or instant pudding.

Most law firms would charge $5-10,000 to even file a patent application with the USPTO, and of course there is no gaurantee the patent will be granted. And then if you ever wanted to sue someone for infringing on your patent, that would cost more money, and there's no gaurantee of success. It appears to me that for the average professional baker/pastry person, the only way to keep you recipes is simply not to share them, but even then there is no way to prevent someone else from "reverse engineering" your bright ideas.

Do you have RLB's Pie and Pastry Bible, Patrick? She has a recipe for Lemon Pucker Pie that she either patented or trademarked, and I can't remember which (and am not at home to check it out)..... The story was that the recipe was such a hit when she developed it, she seriously considered producing the pies commercially and selling them, hence protected the recipe legally. Though the only legal protection may have been for commercial production purposes.

Annie, I'm hoping one of the partners in your doctors practice can get you your results quickly, and am so glad the cat came home! Things are looking up........

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Theoretically you can patent a recipe, but it costs a lot of money, and a patent will only be granted if the technique or product is considered truly novel and nonobvious. When this issue first came up, I briefly searched patents at the US Trademark and Patent office, and couldn't find a single patent on a recipe like the kind you might find in a cookbook.  Most of the patents I found were for things like methods for producing pork patties or instant pudding.

Most law firms would charge $5-10,000 to even file a patent application with the USPTO, and of course there is no gaurantee the patent will be granted. And then if you ever wanted to sue someone for infringing on your patent, that would cost more money, and there's no gaurantee of success. It appears to me that for the average professional baker/pastry person, the only way to keep you recipes is simply not to share them, but even then there is no way to prevent someone else from "reverse engineering" your bright ideas.

Do you have RLB's Pie and Pastry Bible, Patrick? She has a recipe for Lemon Pucker Pie that she either patented or trademarked, and I can't remember which (and am not at home to check it out).....

The USPTO database doesn't show any patents granted for any lemon pie recipes from 1976 to 2006, so I doubt she has a patent. She may well have a trademark, but trademarks only protect names/signs/logos, and not methods or products, trademark would only protect the use of the name "Lemon Pucker Pie"; you could sell pies made from the recipe, you just couldn't call it by that name.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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This topic has been awesome to read! I used to work for an online celebrity chef mag. When they wanted to publish a recipe from a chef or cookbook, they always got a signed release from the author of the recipe, but always tweaked the wording of the ingredients and procedure, just a little. They would credit the recipe's author as well. Interestingly enough, RLB would never sign the release. She didn't want anything of hers published anywhere but her books, etc. She was famous in the office for never cooperating. I guess she decided she didn't need the publicity from another source.

I just went through a similar situation in the bakery I've been working in since the beginning of this year, and I decided to leave. I gave them 2 weeks notice minimum, and up to 4 weeks if they couldn't find someone. But it was no issue on the recipe front, because when I arrived, there were no standard recipes. The PC position at this place was almost like an "artist-in-residence". They had no signature cakes or desserts, and as the only PC, it was up to me to choose what was produced, unless an order was for something very basic. Even though I was on salary, it felt like I was working free lance.

My employers had no idea what it really took to make a cake, let alone develop a recipe. They were always surprised when they gave me an order on very short notice that it might totally screw with my work schedule, and might not be possible. They were also content to have an inferior tasting product that looked good, as long as they could sell it. I couldn't stand to put my rep on the line that way anymore. I realized the whole working for someone else/myself difference, and I had the opportunity to take over my mom's local business and still bake as part of that. So I told them exactly that, and it couldn't have been better. I've found that most of the time, people don't know that something is wrong until they are told so. Maybe they might not agree, but if nothing is said, a problem will continue. When they found somebody after 2.5 weeks, I was let go immediately, and even though I was happy to go, I left on a great note and don't feel bad at all about stopping by to see the people I became friends with while I was there. The most important thing for me about leaving was that I didn't go out like a dick. Moving to owning a business in the area made it extremely important that people remember me on a good note, for referrals and such. Now I am working strictly for myself and loving every minute!

Good luck to you Anne, and if you're not happy, you WILL find a way to change your situation.

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FINALLY.....for those of you who are curious....

Biopsy results.....benign!!!! :biggrin:

Thank god for that. Now I can go back to worrying about crappy cookies. :raz:

WHEW! So glad to hear this. Crappy cookies can be overcome!

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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FINALLY.....for those of you who are curious....

Biopsy results.....benign!!!! :biggrin:

Thank god for that. Now I can go back to worrying about crappy cookies. :raz:

Wonderful

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FINALLY.....for those of you who are curious....

Biopsy results.....benign!!!! :biggrin:

Thank god for that. Now I can go back to worrying about crappy cookies. :raz:

FANTASTIC! Two out of three ain't bad -- tackling the crappy cookies will be a lot easier now!

Cheryl, The Sweet Side
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THAT IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! so happy to hear this, :biggrin: i know i don't "know" you personally but i love your work and i've kept you in my prayers everyday since you posted this information.

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