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How to protect your Recipe under Intellectual Property Rights?

Food of superior quality and flavor is what propels your company to the top. Being a restaurant owner or a chef, you’ve undoubtedly considered how to keep your recipes confidential to prevent others from copying them. If you believe your recipe is unique and different but still unsure about how to preserve it, then you are at the right place. This article will examine the various ways in which a recipe may be safeguarded under Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

Can I protect my recipe under Patent?

Most people think that if they have created something new and unique which no one ever thought of is eligible for patent protection.

For claiming patent protection, your invention must meet the three following requirements:

  1. It must be novel.
  2. It must be non –obviousness or involve inventive steps, which means that the invention must not be apparent or common to the person who has skilled in the same field to which such invention relates.
  3. It must be useful to the public.

Now, let us discuss whether an innovative recipe is eligible for Patent protection.

If we talk about an innovative recipe, Patent protection cannot be granted to a recipe created with the help of known ingredients that existed in the prior art. It isn’t easy to prove that such a recipe never existed before the Patent application’s filing date (to prove the novelty criteria). Combining known components does not qualify as an innovative step unless a new component is added to the combination and gives unexpected results. In such a case, there are chances that a patent may be granted for the novel method of making the innovative recipe but not for the recipe itself.


Copyright protection:

Delightful recipes often lacked literary expression, which is one of the essential elements of CopyrightThe European Court of Justice in 2018ruled that the taste of food was too “subjective and changeable” to satisfy the copyright standards. The question before the Court was whether a spreadable cream cheese dip is subject to Copyright Protection? As a result, the Court finds that the flavor of a food product cannot be considered a ‘work’ and therefore, Copyright law prevents protecting the taste of a food product.

Under the Copyright Law, a collection of recipes or cookbooks may qualify as a literary work if the author adds distinctive literary remarks and is innovative in their recipe selections. The protection does not apply to ingredient lists. Further, this would only prevent the written recipe from republishing itself and not stop anybody from following and creating the meal.

You may want to know: NFTs and Copyright – How far they are protected?

Trademark Law:

Trademark law may help customers distinguish between two companies by protecting names and logos. Although a trademark will not prohibit rivals from duplicating your recipe, it will prevent them from using a similar name registered for your meal if you sell or intend to sell the recipe’s outcomes to customers. If you’ve come up with a unique name for your recipe and have a bona fide purpose of marketing the food item, you might consider filing a trademark application to protect it. 

In Two Pesos, Inc. vs Taco Cabana, Inc. (U.S. Court of Appeal June 26, 1992), the Court protected the Respondent’s (Taco Cabana) trade dress of the restaurant. Including the shape and overall look of the restaurant’s exterior, the distinctive sign, the interior kitchen floor plan, the décor, the menu, the food-serving equipment, the waiters’ uniforms, and other elements, contributing to the restaurant’s overall image.

You should know: Trademark Registration Process in UAE

Registered Design:

A registered design is another form of intellectual property protection that you may want to pursue. It is especially relevant if the outcome of your recipe is a one-of-a-kind design. If your recipe is new and in the form of a unique kind of design that has never been known or published in the public domain, it may be eligible for design protection. For example, Good Day Cookies are famous for their design, i.e. “the first line of the cookie is curved, while subsequent lines below the first line are straight.”

Trade Secret:

The best available option for securing your recipe is to keep it secret. Instead of registering the recipe formula or method formally, one attempts to keep it confidential. A trade secret is an information that is known exclusively to the owner and provides the owner with an edge over rivals. To effectively protect a trade secret as a valuable type of intellectual property, you must ensure that certain safeguards are in place concerning your workers and competitors. The owner is responsible for keeping the secret of the recipe inside the kitchen. As far as the formula is kept secret, it is eligible for protection under Trade secret. Coca Cola and KFC are well-known examples. Businesses must aggressively assert their rights to safeguard their trade secrets. If the trade secret is treated with carelessness, it may result in its legal protection being revoked.

You must know: How to protect Trade Secret in UAE with a Non-Disclosure Agreement

There are specific ways the protection of Trade secrets:

  1. Restricting access to confidential information by confidentiality and non-compete clauses in employment contracts; and 
  2. Entering confidentiality agreements with suppliers, manufacturers, and other contractors.

It is prudent to have these kinds of agreements to protect the trade secret if anything goes wrong and your trade secret becomes public.

To learn more about recipe protection under intellectual property laws, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the subject. HHS Lawyers and Legal Consultants are experts in issues involving the registration and violation of intellectual property rights. If you need any help, please arrange a consultation with us today.

M. Al Khatem

Trademark & Intellectual Property

M. Al Khatem is a senior Trademark and Intellectual Property (IP) expert in HHS Lawyers. He has handled some of the firm’s complex, high-profile cases – many involving the protection of trademark and IP rights.