Sometime during the past couple of months, new additions appeared on the Momofuku Milk Bar and Bakery menu: ‘TM’ symbols next to the cereal milk, compost cookie, and crack pie. Had someone been caught in the act of trying to copycat Christina Tosi’s singular creations? Or were the symbols more symbolic of Momofuku’s particular brand of whimsical irreverence? Neither, says Tosi.
“We honestly just did it because we have such unique things,” she says. “We were trying to be proactive about protecting ourselves, not because anything specific had happened. We really felt [these] were where our identity lied.”
Protecting intellectual property has been thorny issue in the food and restaurant world, where it’s very difficult to prove ownership of recipes and concepts — see, for example, the lawsuit that Pearl Oyster Bar’s Rebecca Charles filed against Ed’s Lobster Bar’s Ed McFarland, or the case of Magnolia Bakery and its legion of sickly sweet imitators.
But Tosi doesn’t seem overly concerned about intellectual property issues. Aside from making “a statement that these are our creations,” she’s not sure how far-reaching the trademarking is. She’s more concerned with the daily production of her trademarked items. “We started the process a month ago, but I have no idea [when it happened],” she says of the TM symbol’s appearance on the blackboard menu. “My head’s always in the oven.”