Former Church’s Chicken employee Norberto Colón Lorenzana has a $10 million idea. Or had. We’re not sure what the statute of limitations regarding fried-chicken-on-a-bun-based intellectual property is, but it’s probably not 28 years — the amount of time since Colón allegedly invented Church’s “Pechu” sandwich in one of the chain’s Puerto Rico outposts. Think that stopped him from going after that crunchy, juicy money? As Church’s Chicken Puerto Rico says, “Lo rico se comparte.”
Last Friday, according to the Washington Post, the Pechu sandwich, short for pechuga (“chicken breast”) spawned a very important Court of Appeals decision that ironically began with “Crying
fowl foul over the trademarking and continued sale of a sandwich…” According to the document, the sandwich consists of a fried chicken breast patty, lettuce, tomato, American cheese and garlic mayonnaise on a bun, which any number of Churchgoers will confirm. What can’t be confirmed — and here’s where it gets interesting — is whether Colón actually invented that combination, which doesn’t even appear in the correct order in the court document, as, obviously, the cheese comes before the lettuce and tomato (proof here). It’s just logical sandwich-crafting order of operations; I’m neither a lawyer nor a sandwich inventor.
Food remains non-copyrightable and is not included in any of the categories listed in the extensive Copyright Act, which is why Chief Judge Jeffrey Howard tossed out Lorenzana’s complaint. “A recipe — or any instructions — listing the combination of chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayonnaise on a bun to create a sandwich is quite plainly not a copyrightable work,” Howard writes in his decision. But again, the cheese comes before the lettuce and tomato.