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Turns Out You Can't Copyright a Chicken Sandwich

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One man definitely tried though.

Nick Solares

The Cronut may be copyrightable, but a chicken sandwich definitely is not. According to Fortune, a gutsy former employee of a fried chicken franchise claimed that he was entitled to a "percentage of profits from a sandwich" recipe that the chain allegedly stole from him — but the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit did not agree.

Norberto Colón Lorenzana recently filed a lawsuit against South American Chicken Corporation (SARCO) — which operates Church's Chicken locations in Puerto Rico — that alleges the company stole his idea for a chicken sandwich. Lorenzana wanted $10 million or "all the earnings produced" by the chain's "Pechu Sandwich" which simply consists of chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayonnaise on a bun.

Chief Judge Jeffrey Howard explained in the ruling: "A recipe — or any instructions— listing the combination of chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayonnaise on a bun to create a sandwich is quite plainly not a copyrightable work." Howard added that the Copyright Act does protect eight different categories, including musical works and dramatic works, but that chicken sandwich was not one of them.

One of the crucial ingredients in a chicken sandwich, mayonnaise, was recently at the center of another legal case. According to Bloomberg, a court ruled that Hampton Creek Foods Inc., the start-up that is backed by investors like Bill Gates, can't call its vegan mayonnaise substitute "mayonnaise" because it does not contain any eggs, and the name would then be "misleading."

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