Thursday, January 24, 2008

Plagiarism in the restaurant business

Michael Bauer of SFGate wrote:

A review I wrote of the restaurant Terzo in San Francisco more than a year ago is causing a stir in Portland, because some of the words and phrases I used turned up in an article written by chef Stu Stein to describe his Portland, Ore., restaurant Terroir.

I became aware of this heist several days ago when alerted by an email. Then a reporter from Willamette Week called me to get my reaction to a posting Stein wrote on his Restaurants and Institutions blog, Earth2Table.

(Update, 1/23: Read her piece here.)

On December 13, he wrote:

"The message we'd hoped to get across was, 'Terroir is the quintessential Pacific-Northwest restaurant. A place that feels like a real restaurant. It's a copacetic blend of good design and focused intent. Terroir is that rare restaurant that seems so right for its location, yet with an appeal far beyond its neighborhood. A place that will convince you that small plates, civilized dining and reasonably priced food can coexist.' "

Here are excerpts from the first part of my review:

"Few restaurants are as clear-cut in their appeal as Terzo. From the minute you step into the chic room, you sense you'll have a great experience. It offers a toasty smell, personable staff and an understated, grown-up look. It feels like a real restaurant; the place doesn't need overwrought lighting, kitschy themed decor or any other gimmick to succeed. It's a rarity for a restaurant to seem so right for its location, but Terzo is perfect for its Cow Hollow neighborhood, with a copacetic blend of good design and focused intent."

And my last sentence:

"I thought I was growing tired of the tapas-inspired concept, but Terzo has renewed my enthusiasm, proving that small plates, civilized dining and reasonably priced food can coexist."

Of the 42 comments to this piece at SFGate, there was no mention of Glen Poshard or of "inadvertent plagiarism."

There were some interesting comments:

For a more enticing plagiarism story, see this:

Great case on the subject, from the 80s I think, where the court used "Weasles Ripped My Flesh" as an example of the rare short phrase or title that might be copyrightable. Ninth Circuit. Zappa.

A commenter (twinfan) at SFGate wrote:

This seems like a real stretch to me. What is he infringing on? It's not like this is a rival critic. It does seem a bit lazy, maybe even sleazy: but not actionable. Here's a phrase Bauer highlights as being heisted:" small plates, civilized dining and reasonably priced food can coexist." I'd wager every penny I have ( 123 of 'em) that that phrase has been used dozens of times before Bauer's review. Who gets to sue who? Lighten up, MB seems to get all het up pretty easily. I mean, counting bumps and all- sue that waiter for assault, Michael...

A Google search of

+"small plates" +"civilized dining"+"reasonably priced food"

produced only eight (8) hits.

IPBiz notes that if the theme "plagiarism in Portland" sounds familiar to you, there's good reason. Although Portland is unlikely
to overturn Harvard ("plagiarize with pride") University as the plagiarism capital, it's in the running.


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