Monday, 8 February 2010

Can traditional cuisine be protected?

The question of today’s blog comes after the president of Mexican Gastronomic Culture, Gloria Lopez Morales, said that Mexican cuisine should be declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

To this effect, last September a dossier was sent to UNESCO, in order to belong in the Representative List of Cultural Heritage. The result will be announced next April. According to Lopez Morales, the requirements to comply with are: to be a very old cuisine, to be faithful to the products, techniques and procedures used; to have the ability to serve it as an element of cultural identity; upon others.

Among the list of intangibles that have been recognised are: the Chinese Dragon Boat festival, Spain whistled language, French timber framing, the procession of the Holy Cross in Bruges, the Mexican Ritual Ceremony of the Voladores and...The Argentinean and Uruguayan tango!

There is clearly a push to protect endanger things due to effects of globalisation. For this reason, I was wondering the influence of this outcome towards IPRs and/or viceversa. Certainly, IP is the protection of an intangible right (that of intellect). Many of the Representative list if not all can (in one way or another) be protected under one or two IP, e.g. dance, singing, choreography, craftsmanship. However, in the area of food I could think of just one area: denominations of origin and geographical indication. Therefore, the question of this week is: can a traditional dish be protected under IP? And if so, under which regime?

Personal note: I presume that the French could claim that a dish is an artistic work, but while there is no requirement of fixation, can a temporal art be protected under let’s say, copyright? I am aware of cases here in the UK, and thus I would like to hear different legislations.

Other countries applying for traditional cuisine is France and Croatia.

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