Ruth Madoff's Cookbook Got Shut Down for Trademark Infringement [scandal]

By now we all know that Ruth Madoff, wife of swindler Bernie Madoff was a cookbook editor, delivering to the world Great Chefs of America Cook Kosher, a 1996 collection of recipes from well-known chefs such as Daniel Boulud, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, David Burke, and Wolfgang Puck. We figured the book just went out of print due to lack of demand. But of course, in all things Madoff, it's more complicated than that.

A comment left by John Shoup on the Dallas News website about Ruth Madoff's cookbook getting blocked from reprinting piqued our interest:

Mrs Madoff stole the title using our registered trademark "Great Chefs". We ultimately got a cease & desist and they agreed not to reprint the bloody book.

Turns out that in 1983, the term "Great Chefs" was trademarked for a "Series of Cookbooks" (read the patent filing).

We were curious, so we tracked down John Shoup, chairman/CEO of Great Chefs Television, a company that produces a television series and publishes cookbooks and DVDs called "Great Chefs" (Great Chefs of the East, Great Chefs of the South, etc.).

Shoup replied:

That family evidently has some flawed morals.

We've defended our registered trademark "Great Chefs" vigorously for almost 30 years. We've produced television series by the same name, which has aired over PBS (KERA) and Discovery for as long, and we published companion cookbooks to go with those series. When we discover someone using our mark, we write them to cease & desist, and if they don't, we file suit, and we have never lost one yet.

In Madoff's case, [after we contacted them] her publisher asked us if they could distribute the small amount of books already printed and that they would not reprint, which we agreed to. To our knowledge, this is what took place, however our attorneys are now looking into it to see if they violated that agreement.

This happens often, for example, there is a book out now titled "Great Chefs cook Vegan" which we've licensed the publisher & author, to use our mark, since most of the chefs are in our series or are of similar caliber. We also license our mark to charitable organizations for fund raisers, but we must protect our name.

We're a little torn as to what to make of this. On one hand, "great chefs" seems like such a generic term that a trademark seems silly. On the other hand, Shoup has built an entire empire built around the term. And on the third hand, Madoff's cookbook was for charity — who sues a charity? What sort of heartless person would want to take money out of the hands of people who really relied on it? Oh. Wait. Never mind.

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