Thursday, 22 October 2015

A Regal Loss - copyright, trademark and patent your creations

A Regal Loss

Once upon a time there was a biscuit called Regal biscuit. It was a soda biscuit, about the size of a bulla that rose during baking and had a hard, cracked, crust when it was done.

I have never had it, but in its heyday anyone travelling from Montego Bay knew that a gift of these to people at the end of the journey would bring smiles, and was an example of love-in-action. Legend has it that it was crispy on the outside and buttery soft on the inside and practically melted in the mouth. Absolutely delicious, Jamaicans between age 60 and age 90 say.

Soda biscuit from Martha Stewart Living
It was the kind of food item, like fry fish, that Jamaican people package and carry for loved ones. If you were coming from South St Elizabeth, you travelled with Sugar Loaf pineapple as gifts, if you were coming from Portland you seek out fit Yellow Heart breadfruit, and Montegonians shared Regal biscuit with the world.

When baker Mills died, he carried the recipe with him to higher service. As wonderful a product, famous in the country, great to make up lunch, but the process was never written down.

Pickapeppa sauce has no equal, according to Jamaicans, and although the brand exists, it does not taste the same. I am told that the original recipe died with its creator, Daddy Lin Kee Chow, and those of us who grew up with the original product, aficionados if you were, have sadly turned to other condiments to add the finishing touch to meat or rice and peas. Pickapeppa is no longer a "must have" in those households.

Every now and then, during moments of skylarking, a flavourful debate would start among friends as to who baked the better beef patty. I defend Bruce's on Trafalgar Road, Kingston was the best; others mention the original Bruce's in Cross Roads across from Empire Supermarket; Montegonians will defend their hometown product. With these three out of business now, the it is the time for the second tier to shine. These latter day bakers know they run a patty shop, so wrote down the recipes and focus themselves on building a successful, long term, business.

The skyline over Montego Bay once had a superboard on the Top Road ridge declaring "Red Stripe". It was a tantalizing call to action as the way to quench your adult thirst. Red Stripe beer was a food group to about three generations of Jamaicans. It's popularity has lasted that long partly because, thank goodness, Mr Geddes ensured that Messrs Cotter and Martindale wrote down the recipe, and there is still a brewery and bottling factory employing people on Spanish Town Road.

As much as some of us might lament the sale of the recipe for Tia Maria liqueur by Lascelles deMercado, and our national rums distilled by J Wray and Nephew (under the Appleton, Wray and Nephew and Sangster's brands) to foreign interests, we have to acknowledge that they lasted beyond their creators because somebody has a process written down in a ruled notebook on a shelf, or..... in an Unobtanium safe that can only be opened by retina scan....I don't know if that is how these recordings are handled; I wish to bring home the point it was recorded properly so that it could be replicated for profit.

Gizzarda is a sweet open coconut tart from Jamaica. Delicious with a short shelf life. The one person who understands how to extend the freshness of the product is a woman running a cottage industry in western Jamaica and her product goes to market in the UK. When quizzed about her special process, she says that she has "a way that she boil the sugar".

Even if the creative person does not have any interest in being a part of the greater good and adding to the storehouse of knowledge for mankind, it makes sense for creators to write down how they made their creations. They can be a part of larger enterprises, they can earn money from the patent or the copyright.

You can pull apart an iPhone and see exactly what is there, and then sigh and say that "If only the copyright and patents did not exist, I could do that too".

Replicating innovation in food and drink, without inside knowledge, is nigh impossible. Who knows if the original Pickapeppa had some special ingredient from Inner Mongolia blended with Trelawny molasses at 105 degrees celsius for sixteen minutes?

Soda biscuit from Probonobaker
Maybe Regal biscuits ONLY used buttermilk churned from the milk of cows that were raised on a mash of fresh green cane cuttings and khus khus supplemented by a weekly ration of guinea grass.
In the area of music, a recording of dub is difficult to pull apart and replicate because you just do not know if a piece of audio was originally a car bonnet hit with a zinc spoon then re-recorded at a different speed then overlaid with the hum of a mosquito and mixed down again.

The Regal biscuit is lost to us, but perhaps we can still save other processes. Let's write down "the way she boil the sugar", and by so doing, establish copyright that can be used for long term gain.

Perhaps one day someone might take up the challenge to bake a great soda biscuit at the right price point for the popular market. They could call it Regal to evoke olde time goodness....but they can't call it Royal because the crown (state) has a trademark on that particular name.