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You Be the Judge: Turkey for Dinner

Dec 2, 2010

by Sarah Feingold handmade and vintage goods


I’ll admit it: as Etsy’s in-house attorney, I love reading legal disputes and thinking about what important issues each side should stress. I especially like to analyze pending copyright, trademark, and patent cases. I daydream about what points I would argue if I were the lawyer for each side and then I put on my imaginary judge’s robe and make a decision.

Well, here’s your chance. If you were the judge, what would you decide on this real-life on-going legal battle?

Most of my cooking endeavors end in a laugh (and take-out). There was the time I thought the box of chocolate chip muffin mix was brownie mix and I created a giant, puffy “bruffin,” and the time I added an entire box of pasta to my soup, making it into something not at all soupy. I need some serious kitchen supervision, and more than a few paragraphs of instructions, to prepare anything edible. For those who can cook, in the case of the turkey cooking instructions, you be the judge.

According to their website, Greenberg Smoked Turkey, Inc. is an institution that spans four generations.  Greenberg has sold turkey, complete with a three paragraph instruction insert, since 1987.

Goode-Cook, Inc. owns several restaurants and also ships products (including smoked turkey). Goode’s website also contains turkey preparation instructions.

A few days before Thanksgiving 2010, Greenberg commenced a lawsuit, asserting that their turkey instructions are “copyrightable subject matter” and Goode’s website contains “unauthorized copies of Greenberg’s copyright.”  The instructions are found on the second page of the five page complaint.

In the United States, to succeed in a claim for copyright infringement, a party must show a valid copyright, actual copying (would a reasonable person infer that the work was copied), and improper appropriation.

Copyright protects expression but not the underlying ideas, and sometimes these concepts merge. Goode may argue that instructions contain short phrases and ideas and are not protected by copyright. How many ways can one succinctly communicate the keeping and heating up of a turkey?

Please review the paragraphs at issue and in the case of the turkeys, you be the judge!

block print turkey towel hand printed
block print turkey towel hand printed
Hand crocheted amigurumi turkey thanksgiving table decoration
Hand crocheted amigurumi turkey thanksgiving table decoration


  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 9 years ago

    Surely theres only one way to cook a turkey! Thats put it in the oven lol. Theres only so many things you can trademark. Its like Facebook trying to trademark the word 'Face' its ridiculous! I can see why they'd see it as an infringement if the instruction leaflet was an actual design though.

  • byAgnes

    byAgnes said 9 years ago

    mmmniam :) Dinner Time!!

  • doveandflower

    doveandflower said 9 years ago

    Just silly. Keeping a turkey warm in a Reynolds Oven bag is a great idea, but maybe Reynolds might deserve the credit on that, but then, I'm not a lawyer. LOL Love Heather's turkey charm!

  • VintageEyeFashion

    VintageEyeFashion said 9 years ago

    Does this fall under the "more than one way to skin a cat" doctrine! lol!

  • VivaGailBeads

    VivaGailBeads said 9 years ago

    interesting predicament

  • Colettesboutique

    Colettesboutique said 9 years ago

    That is certainly an interesting dispute. Not sure what to make of it. I would be curious to see the outcome.

  • polkadotmagpie

    polkadotmagpie said 9 years ago

    Oh I don't know Sarah...intellectual property is a slippery slope. Anyone can file a lawsuit, but not anyone can collect damages. Can you tell I was married to a very big patent atty at one time? :-) Lots to ponder.

  • MerCurios

    MerCurios said 9 years ago

    I've never cooked a turkey. We are always at someone else's for Thanksgiving. But there can only be so many ways to cook a "conventional" turkey. The WWW is chock full of recipes, I'm sure some are original, while others are modifications to the original... That said, I don't condone copying. It is one thing to gain inspiration from someone and another to copy them outright. xo, MJ

  • junkyardglitter

    junkyardglitter said 9 years ago

    I hear Turkey is good fried?

  • stonesoupjewelry

    stonesoupjewelry said 9 years ago

    I'm guessing this one won't succeed...but points to Greenberg for having the url!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat said 9 years ago

    What about all the cook books that contain the same recipes? Are they all going to start suing each other? (when they all got their ideas from Mrs Beeton in the first place, but won't be sued by HER publisher because the book's so old the copyright has run out)

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 9 years ago

    Lol - who knows! Strange though, for sure. And on another note: mmmmmmmm....turkey.

  • happywhosits

    happywhosits said 9 years ago

    The only real thing I see that could be at issue is the use of the oven roasting bag (Reyolds or otherwise). How long you warm it up, and the temperature are probably pretty standard for any pre-cooked turkey. So are you going to tell us what you think Sarah? Eileen...

  • JudyRuth

    JudyRuth said 9 years ago

    I say just eat the stupid thing cold then everyone will be happy!ha! wonderful article!

  • EverybodyElse

    EverybodyElse said 9 years ago

    It's silly. The instructions are very short and to the point. There's not a whole lot of room complaining about theft of expression here.

  • shannondzikas

    shannondzikas said 9 years ago

    Don't judges have bigger issues to contemplate? If I weren't a vegetarian I'd throw turkeys at all of the big execs fighting like children. Way to go dudes, you made me want to eat turkey even less.

  • Asianexpressions

    Asianexpressions said 9 years ago

    Silly IMO.

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy said 9 years ago

    smoke turkey sounds good for dinner. the way of heating up a turkey, it's style of writing, can be copywritten. i don't know if they have to have the literal copyright symbol and all the words there. artn't those usually for deterrent? if goode is suing for infringement based on the idea of heating a turkey, that seems like a silly case... but if they wrote it in some genius haiku and everyone got it within three lines that would eradicate too cold or too burnt turkey across the world forever then their "copyright" enforced.

  • Earleyimages

    Earleyimages said 9 years ago

    Love cold turkey lol

  • HulaGirl1922

    HulaGirl1922 said 9 years ago

    but..but...what it really boils down to...or in this case..."cooks" to is.... “TURKEY, n. A large bird whose flesh when eaten on certain religious anniversaries has the peculiar property of attesting piety and gratitude. Incidentally, it is pretty good eating.” ~ Ambrose Pierce doh!! an interesting read Sarah! :)

  • ohbabydotcom

    ohbabydotcom said 9 years ago

    love the boars head ovenroast, lol. :)

  • girlscantell

    girlscantell said 9 years ago

    sarah, what you lack in cooking skills you make up for with your sweet tooth! ;)

  • treasurebooth

    treasurebooth said 9 years ago

    I stay away from turkey, yuck!

  • RageoftheAge

    RageoftheAge said 9 years ago

    hmmmm...seems the only good argument it would 'serve' consider becoming vegetarian/vegan? ;-) i don't know but I can't keep the word 'ridiculous' from popping into my head~ :-/ How could anyone arguing such a thing keep a straight face? :-D

  • TheLittleRagamuffin

    TheLittleRagamuffin said 9 years ago

    This year was the first Thanksgiving where we actually ate a 'real' turkey -that is: a heritage breed, born and raised free-range on a farm just up the hill from us. I wish more people would start copying that idea :)

  • GalleonGal

    GalleonGal said 9 years ago

    Well I like exotic foods like pineapples, Oriental dishes, fish, cajun food, BBq, Stuffed crabs, grilled foods. steamed citrus flavored rice, I have trouble with bad headaches so I have to have protein in my diet but I love good veggies they get along with my finickly system I do not really care that much for turkey, I do not like the smell of some meats

  • SMaier

    SMaier said 9 years ago

    LOL That is an absoluetly ridiculous lawsuit! You can't copyright instructions or recipes for that matter!! I think some people just look for things to create drama with, or the company is just looking for some form of advertising. I guess any exposure is good exposure?!? LOL

  • lauraprentice

    lauraprentice said 9 years ago

    yeah... that's why I don't cook...

  • DalkullanJewelry

    DalkullanJewelry said 9 years ago

    Love your 'bruffin' story Sarah! When I was a girl I thought I was making the ultimate dessert, cake mix, pudding mix, and jello mix combined. Needless to say, it was a disaster.

  • RomanceCatsAndWhimsy

    RomanceCatsAndWhimsy said 9 years ago

    You really do have an interesting job Sarah! It amazes me to read about some of these lawsuits. Such a waste of time and money.

  • choisette

    choisette said 9 years ago

    shout out to l.a. shop local: los angeles

  • TheAndersonGuild

    TheAndersonGuild said 9 years ago

    thanks for the reminder...i have to see if there's any videos on youtube of people trying to deep fry turkeys. let's see: set a ten gallon kettle of boiling oil on the deck next to the house and then drop an 18 lb wet half-defrosted turkey into it. YIKES! i'm not usually so perverse but i saw a video on the news several years ago of people doing just that and it's become as much of a holiday tradition for us as watching RUDOLF or THE GRINCH.

  • cubb

    cubb said 9 years ago

    I don't see any similarity except for the time to cook per pound and the temperature. Totally ridiculous suite. Sounds more like jealousy than a real infringement to me. Maybe I am a bit biased though, because I was once sued in federal court for violating a contract that I never signed. You figure that out. It however was thrown out but it still cost thousands to defend yourself.

  • SavoyFaire

    SavoyFaire said 9 years ago

    I prefer ham! Isn't that like not letting people sing Happy Birthday due to someone owning that? Deep fried turkey rocks!

  • VintageSeaShore

    VintageSeaShore said 9 years ago

    It appears Greenberg is crying fake tears. Maybe not to themselves but come on, anyone can make a turkey and eventually, all the methods are used up.

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 9 years ago

    Oh my. It's silly things like this that keep our courts tied up. Greenberg has a case if Goode copied them word for word but really - what impact would that have on sales or reputation? Does a judge decide strictly on the copyright law or do they factor in the harm that was actually done to the plaintiff? I can't see what Greenberg gains by doing this? The only one that comes out on top is Reynolds. Ha.

  • cassidycay

    cassidycay said 9 years ago

    I do like all the turkeys though.

  • PinkBakenBoutique

    PinkBakenBoutique said 9 years ago

    Interesting... Sounds like the old college paraphrase people! Goode-cook's turkey must be better!

  • CEDesign

    CEDesign said 9 years ago

    So cute!

  • TheNightjar

    TheNightjar said 9 years ago

    this Thanksgiving I ate the best turkey ever and my husband took a long time to to baste and baste and baste and sew up stuffing inside and all kinds of other voodoo incantations †o make the turkey taste i imagine that Greenberg might have his own voodoo recipie that he is trying to protect....who knows unless you are in that courtroom -right??

  • Ingamae

    Ingamae said 9 years ago

    I cannot believe that an attorney was forced by their client to file such a frivolous lawsuit. I guess they weren't forced but I bet it was a long term client and they could not convince them that this was definitely not a winner lawsuit. If I were the judge I'd listen politely to both sides and then dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be made. the end. amen

  • cekmagdurlari

    cekmagdurlari said 8 years ago

    don't know if they have to have the literal copyright symbol and all the words there. artn't those usually for deterrent?

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