Last year’s Tales of Cocktail, an annual gala for the cocktail industry featured a panel discussion on the intellectual property rights associated with cocktails. Speakers and panelists included, Eben Freeman, a famous mixologist, Sheila Morrison, a staffer from the Trademark Office, and Riley Lagesen, a lawyer with a specialized restaurant business practice.
Signature cocktails are a bartender’s most lucrative asset, yet not afforded some intellectual property rights because of the nature of the business and product. Cocktails constitute the expression of an idea, so like other recipes; they are not automatically protected by a copyright. In order to receive copyright protection, creators of cocktails must publish their recipes. However given the nature of their business, bartenders rarely write down their recipes, let alone have them published.
As the role and perception of a bartending shifts from a transitional job to that of a specialized artisan, there will likely be an increase in recipe publications as bartenders realize the monetary potential in signature cocktails. Some within the industry worry that this push to protect intellectual property interests will stifle the cooperative nature so common within the industry. As the signature cocktail property rights continue to evolve, it is yet to be seen how the industry will adapt.