The City by the ©
added: 07.11.2013, by Mike Spinney
I love Portland, Maine. I love pizza. I blog for a company that provides simple tools to help people protect their valuable documents and information.
Imagine my delight when I stumbled across a Kennebec Journal story that combines all three.
In brief: when Portland bakery Micucci’s Grocery fired the creator of its popular Sicilian Slab pizza, it not only touched off a minor panic among pizza lovers in the City by the Sea, but it also created a bit of a legal brouhaha over who owns the rights to the pie’s secrets.
Seems the bread used by Chef Steven Lanzalotta as the pizza’s crust was formulated while Lanzalotta operated his own restaurant, Sophia’s. Now that Lanzalotta is no longer associated with Micucci’s, he doesn’t want the business to make any dough from the dough he brought with him. What’s more, Lanzalotta claims service trademark ownership of the name “Sicilian Slab.”
As the Journal article describes, the rift between Lanzalotta and Micucci’s falls within a gray area of intellectual property rights law. Had Lanzalotta created the entirety of the Sicilian Slab while in Micucci’s employ, things might be a little clearer. If there had been language in the employment agreement protecting or transferring rights to the bread used as the Sicilian Slab’s crust, things might be a little clearer. But as Verrill Dana attorney Charles Bacall dryly observes, if such questions were always clear, “all lawyers would be out of business.”
Which brings us to some advice imparted by Ashlyn Lembree of the University of New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property, who suggests that trade secrets and other intellectual property can be protected by “only letting employees who have a need to know, know, or maybe know only part of the recipe. Or having passwords on your computers. Or having lock-and-key on your recipe box. Or having nondisclosure agreements with your employees.”
In other words, there are simple steps that can be taken to demonstrate a desire to keep confidential information confidential. Failure to take those steps may put your standing at risk and leave that information vulnerable to exploitation.
That is sage advice in this day and age when more and more people are working as contractors, consultants, or as part of a virtual company. Make sure to take the steps necessary to protect your creations, both through contract and in the day-to-day communications you have with clients, colleagues, and prospective customers.
Meanwhile, I might just have to make a trip to my erstwhile adopted home city to do some field work on this story. Or at least visit some of my old haunts that are still around (like Marcy’s and Dewey’s) while the dust of this story settles.