Since the opening of Pearl Oyster Bar by Rachel Charles in the West Village 10 years ago, theÂ chef watched the arrival of a string of restaurants she considers ÂknockoffsÂ of her own. She wasÂ the first chef in New York who took over lobster rolls, Fried calms and other players of newÂ England seafood cookery.
In particular she was most appalled by one of her imitators Ed Mcfarland chef and co-owner of EdÂsÂ Lobster Bar in Soho and her sous-chef at Pearl for six years. She recently filed a suit againstÂ him seeking financial damage from Mr. McFarland and the restaurant itself, charges that EdÂsÂ Lobster Bar copies Âeach and every elementÂ of Pearl Oyster Bar, including the white marble bar,Â the gray paint on the wainscoting, the chairs and bar stools with their wheat-straw backs, theÂ packets of oyster crackers placed at each table setting and the dressing on the Caesar salad.Â
Mr. McFarland would not comment on the complaint, saying that he had not seen it yet. But he saidÂ that EdÂs Lobster Bar, which opened in March, was no imitator. ÂI would say itÂs a similarÂ restaurant,Â he said, ÂI would not say itÂs a copy.Â
RachelÂs lawyers said that what EdÂs Lobster Bar had done amounted to theft of her intellectualÂ property.
In recent years, a handful of chefs and restaurateurs have invoked intellectual property concepts,Â including trademarks, patents and trade dress Â the distinctive look and feel of a business Â toÂ defend their restaurants, their techniques and even their recipes, but most have stopped short ofÂ a courtroom.
The Pearl Oyster Bar suit may be the most aggressive use of those concepts by the owner of a smallÂ restaurant.
Is this the beginning of lawsuits by famous chefs?