The secret recipe behind Reggae Reggae Sauce


Author: Eddie Powell


The case of Anthony Bailey and another v Keith Graham and others [2011] EWHC 3098 (Ch) involved a claim brought against Levi Roots relating to the secret recipe behind his ‘Reggae Reggae Sauce’, which became a well known success following his appearance on the television show Dragon’s Den.

Anthony Bailey and Sylvester Williams alleged Mr Roots (whose real name is Keith Graham) breached a duty of confidence relating to the secret recipe of the sauce, and breached an oral agreement regarding its commercial exploitation.

Mr Bailey and Mr Roots operated a stall together at the Notting Hill carnival for several years, at which they sold jerk chicken prepared using jerk sauce that Mr Bailey maintained he had made in accordance with his own unique secret recipe.

The claimants alleged that they subsequently made an oral agreement with Mr Roots that they would together exploit Mr Bailey’s jerk sauce recipe and share the profits of doing so equally. They alleged that it was agreed that Mr Bailey would supply the recipe, Mr Roots would carry out the marketing and Mr Williams would arrange funding and assist with the marketing.

The claimants maintained that, in accordance with that agreement, Mr Bailey supplied a list of ingredients to Mr Roots and demonstrated to him how the sauce was prepared. Mr Bailey accepted that, after doing this, he did nothing to contribute to the process. The claimants claimed that a joint venture partnership at will had come into existence i.e. where no fixed term has been agreed for the duration of the partnership or the partnership has been entered into for an undefined term.

In his defence, Mr Roots admitted that he and Mr Bailey prepared the sauce together before the carnivals, but said there was nothing secret about it. He maintained that he started experimenting with sauce recipes on his own some time after then and, having perfected the sauce, he applied the title ‘Reggae Reggae sauce’, which he also invented.

What is confidential information?

To be protected by the law of confidential information, information must be:

  • confidential in nature: having the "necessary quality of confidence"; and
  • disclosed in circumstances importing an obligation of confidence.

The judge rejected the claim and held that there was no evidence that the recipe was supplied to Mr Roots in circumstances importing an obligation of confidence. He added that the ingredients used were completely standard, and the quantities used and methodology of preparation were too imprecise to enable the repeated preparation of a product to a consistent standard. For these reasons, he held that the recipe was not sufficiently well developed to be capable of being confidential information.

Furthermore, the onus was on the claimants to establish the oral agreement that they contended had been reached, but the judge held that they had failed to do so.

Although oral agreements are legally enforceable, it is sensible to ensure that their terms are recorded in writing so that they may be used for evidential purposes, if necessary. Furthermore, there are certain circumstances in which an agreement is required to be made in writing by law, or in order to fulfil some registration requirement.

Eddie Powell, partner (epowell@fladgate.com), Fladgate LLP

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