From Kentucky Fried Chicken’s 11 herbs and spices to the well-guarded formula for Coca-Cola, the food and beverage industry is bursting with intellectual property. To make it in this business, you must have an edge and guard it.
Recipes are the most obvious intellectual property for chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs, even though they are simple lists of ingredients and instructions. So, how can professionals in the foodservice industry protect valuable secret recipes?
Can they be patented?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) does not typically patent recipes. The two main reasons are:
- The result is too obvious. For example, if you mix flour with water, you will obviously end up with plain bread dough.
- The recipe is not singular or novel. For example, the bread dough recipe above contains common ingredients and requires no new and unique processes.
That said, you might succeed in obtaining a patent if your recipes are truly unique and stand well apart from other food and drink offerings.
Are they trade secrets?
Yes, it is likely that your recipes qualify as trade secrets rather than patentable property. Keep the ingredients and processes used to make your recipes a well-guarded secret. This often means sharing them with only those who need access (chefs, cooks, etc.) and having those individuals (or your entire staff) sign a non-disclosure agreement.
That way, you have legal options if someone tries to steal or misappropriate your recipes.
Like many in the Texas food and beverage industry, you may think you have no intellectual property to protect. However, you almost certainly do, from the names of your dishes to the logo on your menus. Learn more about preserving your property so that it continues to benefit your operations.