Menu Copying: Is It Legal to Use a Successful Diner’s Menu under a Different Name?

When it comes to the restaurant industry, competition is fierce and the quest for uniqueness is a constant battle. One question that often arises is whether it’s legal to copy a successful diner’s menu and use it under a different name. The answer to this question is not as straightforward as it might seem, as it involves a complex interplay of intellectual property laws, trade secrets, and fair competition practices. This article will delve into these aspects to provide a comprehensive answer.

Understanding Intellectual Property Laws

Intellectual property laws protect original creations, including literary, artistic, and scientific works. However, these laws do not typically extend to recipes or menus. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, recipes that are mere listings of ingredients do not constitute a copyrightable form of expression. Therefore, copying a menu’s list of dishes and their ingredients is not generally considered a violation of copyright laws.

Trade Secrets and Unfair Competition

While copyright laws may not protect menus, other legal concepts such as trade secrets and unfair competition can come into play. A trade secret is any information that gives a business a competitive advantage and is kept confidential. If a restaurant has a unique recipe that is not known to the public and another restaurant obtains and uses this recipe without permission, it could be considered a violation of trade secret laws.

Unfair competition laws, on the other hand, protect businesses from dishonest or fraudulent practices by competitors. If a restaurant copies another’s menu and misleads customers into believing that they are affiliated with the original restaurant, this could be seen as unfair competition.

Renaming the Dishes

Renaming the dishes on a copied menu does not necessarily make the act legal. If the ingredients and preparation methods are identical, and especially if there is an attempt to deceive customers, legal issues could still arise. However, if the dishes are merely similar and not exact copies, and there is no intent to mislead, it is less likely to be considered illegal.


In conclusion, while it is not generally illegal to copy a menu and rename the dishes, doing so can still lead to legal complications under certain circumstances. It is always best to strive for originality and authenticity in the restaurant business, not only to avoid potential legal issues but also to provide a unique dining experience for customers.

Remember, the information provided in this article should not be used as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions or concerns, you should consult with a qualified attorney.