A chef in the UK is upset after he claims his former employers trademarked his own name in an attempt to sell off the rights to his signature recipes.
James Cochran, who is currently appearing on the BBC's Great British Menu show, has called his former employers the ‘lowest of the low’ after they launched the website 'Jamescochran.co.uk: a page dedicated to selling the rights to the chef’s recipes.
Cochran left his namesake restaurant, James Cochran EC3, in April 2017 with the owners, Rayuela, continuing to trade under the same name, perhaps to be expected. However, more recently, it came to light they had also trademarked his name and launched a new website aimed at cashing in on the chef's name and recent TV popularity.
"Supercharge Your Menu With Our Signature Recipes" reads the site, where they are selling Cochron's recipes for Jerk Chicken, Scotch Egg and Crispy Cauliflower for a license fee starting at £25 a week.
In response, Cohron has said he will happily give the recipes for free to anyone who wants them, “Wtf?? Who is going to pay £25 a week just to add my name in front of the recipe?? I will give you the recipes for free if your that low!!’
On twitter, the chef has been very vocal against his old employers but they have also defended their position, many other chefs have also lept to the defense of Cochron only to find themselves arguing with people at Rayuela.
Rayuela, despite the obvious backlash are sticking to their grounds. "Along with a broad range of misconceptions being repeated in the public domain - such as the factually incorrect statement that James Cochran the chef is disallowed from using his own name - the owners of the James Cochran trademark are disappointed that no one has reported that not only have they attempted to negotiate with James at various points regarding his acquiring ownership of the trademark, but they remain open to negotiation. To date Mr James Cochran’s only offer to acquire the trademark was for a sum less than it cost to complete trademarking.This is perhaps ironic given that part of Mr Cochran’s histrionic rhetoric in the public domain focuses on baseless accusations that the owners are reaping the financial benefits of this valuable trademark.The owners of the trademark remain entirely open to reasonable offers from James that allow them to recoup their investment in the brand.”
The company may well be within their legal rights to take the position they have, to trademark and to own the recipes of their employees, however, this feud highlights the potential problem of opening a namesake restaurant, and, if what Cochron says is true, working without any signed contract.
The question stands: is what they're doing correct in a ethical, moral standpoint? The website seems dedicated to cashing in on the chef's most recent television success, even offering to cater events with the chef's recipes. This seems an over step and the primary problem other chefs, writers and diners are questioning online. Keep the name, ok. Keep the recipes, of course, especially if they were developed under your kitchen, but lock down a name and profit from someone's ventures after they've left your restaurant - that seems a bit off to most in the industry.