Here’s an interesting post from Eric Goldman commenting on the Coscarelli v. Esquared case.  The ruling from the court? Recipes are “lists of required ingredients and the directions for combining them to achieve the final products.”  And as such, they are not eligible for copyright protection.

This is what is known as the “fact/expression” dichotomy.  The recipe itself is a collection of facts – not expression.  So, as the court noted, if the author of the recipe writes about “the wafting odors of certain dishes in various stages of preparation,” and “suggestions for presentation, advice on wines to go with the meal, or hints on place settings and appropriate music” all of that may be protectible.  The recipe itself? Not so much.

In the case giving rise to the opinion, Chef Chloe Coscarelli focused her pleading on the alleged infringer’s use of the recipe, but not on her commentary.  Which means she got it backwards.

All of this suggests that if you want to protect a special recipe, better to keep it under lock and key than rely on copyright law.