The U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico found that the man who invented the chicken sandwich is not entitled to the copyright on his alleged creation.
Norberto Colón Lorenzana claims that he was working at a Church’s Chicken in Puerto Rico in 1987 when he had the idea to add a chicken sandwich to the menu called the Pechu Sandwich — made with fried chicken, tomato, lettuce, and garlic mayonnaise.
The sandwich racked in handsome sales for Church’s, but Lorenzana did not receive any credit. The South American Restaurant Corporation (SARCO) trademarked the Pechu Sandwich in 2006.
Lorenzana filed a lawsuit in 2014 claiming that Church’s had taken advantage of his intellectual property and demanded that he gets a stake in the profits. He sought $10 million in damages for intellectual property, but the U.S. court ruled August 21 that sandwiches are not copyrightable — especially chicken sandwiches.
“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,” Chief Judge Jeffrey Howard wrote in the decision. “The name of the food item is also not copyrightable, because copyright protection cannot be extended to words and short phrases, such as names, titles, and slogans.”
The Copyright Act protects work such as architecture, music, literature, and other forms of art — but unfortunately for Lorenzana, not food.