Your intellectual property tastes delicious

This has to be my favourite intellectual property dispute ever: according to reports from a variety of sources, including Associated Press and Haaretz, a group known as the Association of Lebanese Industrialists is planning to file a lawsuit against the state of Israel for “stealing” traditional Lebanese delicacies such as hummus (which is spelled about seven different ways) as well as baba gannouj, falafels and tabouleh.

As it turns out, of course, Lebanon doesn’t actually own the trademark to such dishes, but the head of the ALI says he’s planning to file something, and once he gets the rights he’s going to sue someone (it’s not clear who). The precedent, apparently, is the case that Greece launched to get the exclusive EU rights to the term “feta” cheese.

The only wrinkle in the Lebanese plan? A number of other groups — including the Palestinians — claim they invented the dishes Lebanon wants to trademark (The Guardian says that tabouleh was developed in Ottoman Syria, including what is now Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan). Can’t they all just sit down and talk this one over?

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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