Great British Menu chef in trademark row with former restaurant

Chef James Cochran, who is currently appearing on the BBC series Great British Menu, is embroiled in a rights dispute with his former employer after the restaurant trademarked his name and has started selling his signature recipes as part of the brand.

Cochran, who is taking part in the London and south east heat of BBC 2’s Great British Menu, left his eponymous restaurant James Cochran EC3 earlier this year to go it alone with a new venture in Islington.

However, prior to his appearance on the television show, owner of the restaurant Rayuela Ltd set up a website (www.jamescochran.co.uk) which is selling licenses to use a number of the chef’s signature recipes with a five-recipe plan going for as much as £50 a week.

The company is also continuing to operate the restaurant using Cochran’s name, with its Twitter bio currently reading: “James Cochran is now open in EC3, James (sic.) food takes influence from his Scottish/Caribbean heritage”.

In a tweet upon discovery of the website, Cochran wrote: “Anyone wanna buy me? My ex-employers are the lowest of low trying to sell off my name as recipes plans??!! Wtf?? Who is going to pay £25 a week just to add my name in front of the recipe?? I will give you the recipes for free if you’re that low!!”

A number of fellow chefs and industry personalities have since leapt to his defence including Cornerstone’s Tom Brown, Ellis Barrie of the Marram Grass and food critic Jay Rayner.

In a response, Rayuela quoted the UK Patent Act before rejecting claims that it was cashing in on Cochran’s TV appearance.

It wrote: “Please refrain from giving advice if you do not know the ins and outs of the situation. It’s rarely black and white. Check out UK Patent Act 1977 which states that owner of all IP (inc trademarks) will be the employer. @cochran_ja was a paid employee, not an owner. End of story.

“Trademark was filed long before James surprised everyone at EC3 by handing in his resignation and GBM series finished filming. We wish James well, but we will defend our business vigorously against baseless accusations and defamatory statements”.

In a subsequent, longer statement, the company added: “Along with a broad range of misconceptions being repeated in the public domain – such as the factually incorrect statement that James Cochran the chef is disallowed from using his own name – the owners of the James Cochran trademark are disappointed that no one has reported that not only have they attempted to negotiate with James at various points regarding his acquiring ownership of the trademark, but they remain open to negotiation.

“To date Mr James Cochran’s only offer to acquire the trademark was for a sum less than it cost to complete trademarking. This is perhaps ironic given that part of Mr Cochran’s histrionic rhetoric in the public domain focuses on baseless accusations that the owners are reaping the financial benefits of this valuable trademark. The owners of the trademark remain entirely open to reasonable offers from James that allow them to recoup their investment in the brand.”

Cochran, who claimed that he was unaware that the restaurant had trademarked his name, has opened a new restaurant called 1251 on Islington’s Upper Street. The two-storey, 48 cover venue serves small plates, snacks and sharing boards using Kentish produce, inspired by Cochran’s joint Scottish and Caribbean heritage.

Examples include: Potato crisp, whitstable oyster cream, seaweed, vinegar; Jerk spiced monkfish, iceberg lettuce, yogurt, watermelon, coriander, and a sharing board containing shoulder, loin, haunch, belly and rack of kid goat, black eyed pea dahl, roti, scotch bonnet jam, pineapple, cucumber and carrot salad and coconut rice.

Organic wines will dominate the wine list with cocktails containing quirky ingredients, such as a Negroni made with sweet cicely from Kent.

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