Patrons of Chicago's Fraiche Bakery Cafe are hoping for the best at a court hearing to be held later this week. The bakery has sued a former chef, accusing him of stealing two binders that housed the business' secret recipes.
When owner Susan Davis Friedman asked for the recipes back, the chef allegedly demanded that she sue. He also reportedly told another employee that she should have made copies.
Unless the judge orders their return, the bakery cannot make its acclaimed Cinnamon Bomb muffin.
A quick look at trade secret law suggests that the judge will likely order the chef to return the binders in addition to any copies he may possess. Though recipes are not copyrightable, they can form the basis of a trade secret.
A trade secret is generally defined as "a piece of information that has independent economic value by not being generally known and can reasonably be maintained a secret." In order to obtain trade secret protection, a business must take active steps to protect the information and keep it secret.
Susan Davis Friedman and her team at Fraiche Bakery Cafe spent 3 1/2 years developing these recipes, reports the Chicago Tribune. They are not generally known and appear to have only been reproduced in one place -- the stolen binders. And, as her attorney and husband has pointed out, the chef signed a nondisclosure agreement.
These facts alone should afford the recipes protection, which means the chef has broken the law. Acquiring a trade secret by theft or in breach of a nondisclosure agreement is illegal. The court can therefore order the chef to return the recipes to Susan Davis Friedman and demand he cease from using them in the future.