How Do I Protect My Recipes As A Restaurant?

How Do I Protect My Recipes As A Restaurant?

As a restaurant owner, your recipes are precious and unique to your restaurant. As a result, it is in your restaurant’s best interests to protect these recipes the best you can, most of the time the best avenue for this is through intellectual property law.

Can Cocktail Recipes Obtain Intellectual Property Protection?

A copyright is the exclusive legal right, given to an author or its assignee, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same. A copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is “created” when it is fixed in a “copy or a phonorecord for the first time.” For example, a song can be fixed in sheet music or on a CD, or both.

Cocktail recipes can be protected under copyright law as literary works; but it can be difficult to prove that a particular recipe is original and thus eligible for copyright protection. 

Moreover, if recipes simply list ingredients and instructions for mixing them, without any additional creative expression, may not be protected under copyright law. This is because a copyrightable product normally needs some form of creative expression. Examples of creative expressions for a recipe can be a name to the recipe, a design, or even a mix of new ingredients that you make for the sole purpose of the recipe. Once you have the idea for the trademark, you must file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). 

Can a Restaurant Trademark a Recipe?

Yes, a restaurant can trademark a recipe if the recipe is used in connection with the sale of goods or services, and the recipe serves as a source identifier for the restaurant’s goods or services. A trademark is a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product. 

It is important to note that a recipe itself cannot be trademarked, only the name or branding associated with the recipe can be trademarked. For example, a restaurant could trademark the name of a signature dish, but not the recipe for that dish. Additionally, the name or branding must be distinctive and not likely to be confused with any existing trademarks in order to be eligible for trademark registration. Once you have the idea for the trademark, you must file an application with the USPTO. 

Can Recipes Obtain Patent Protection?

A patent is a government authority or license conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention.

Recipes normally cannot be patented. However, if a recipe involves a new and non-obvious method or process that is used to make a new and useful product, it may be possible to obtain a utility patent for the method or process. 

For example, if a recipe involves a new method of fermenting a beverage that results in a unique flavor profile, it may be possible to obtain a patent for the method of fermentation. However, patent protection is generally not available for recipes that simply list ingredients and instructions for mixing them, without any new and non-obvious method or process.

Additionally, patent protection is only available for inventions that are new, useful, and non-obvious. Obtaining a patent is a long and complex process that requires extensive research, drafting and filing of patent application, and examination by the patent office.

Can a Recipe Be a Trade Secret?

A trade secret is any information that is not generally known or readily ascertainable by proper means by another person who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use. A recipe can be considered a trade secret if it is kept confidential and provides the owner of the trade secret with a competitive advantage. In order to maintain the trade secret status, the owner of the recipe must take reasonable steps to keep the recipe secret, such as by only disclosing it to a select group of employees who have signed non-disclosure agreements.

Trade secret law may protect certain aspects of a cocktail recipe, such as the unique combination of ingredients or the specific method of preparation. However, the recipe must be kept confidential for it to be protected as a trade secret.

However, if the recipe is made public, either by the owner or by someone else, it loses its trade secret protection. Also, if it can be independently figured out or reverse engineered, it may not be considered a trade secret. Examples of trade secret recipes include Coca-Cola’s secret formula, KFC’s original fried chicken recipe, and the recipe for the “secret sauce” used by McDonald’s.

How Can I Make a Recipe a Trade Secret?

Make a recipe into a trade secret can be difficult; however, here are some steps you can take to make a recipe a trade secret: 

  1. Keep the recipe confidential by limiting access to the recipe to only a select group of employees who have a need to know and have signed non-disclosure agreements; 
  2. Label and store the recipe securely by labeling the recipe as “confidential” and storing it in a secure location where only authorized individuals have access;
  3. Limit access to the recipe in your business by only using the recipe in your production process, and do not give it away or sell it to others;
  4. Train employees on trade secret protection by educating your employees on the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of the recipe and the potential consequences of disclosing it;
  5. Review and update your protection measures regularly by regularly reviewing and updating your measures to ensure that the recipe remains a trade secret; and 
  6. Consider legal protection if you believe that your recipe has significant economic value and you are willing to invest the time and money in protecting it, you may want to consider seeking legal protection by filing for trade secret protection.

It’s worth noting that trade secret protection is not automatic, it must be actively pursued and maintained. Additionally, if the recipe becomes known to the public, or can be easily reverse-engineered, it would lose its trade secret status.

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and historic Washington D.C. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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Silvino Diaz

Silvino E. Diaz’s practice ranges from Civil and Commercial Litigation to Entertainment and Intellectual Property Law. Silvino has earned a reputation as one of Puerto Rico’s foremost advocates for independent musicians and artists. As a result of his sustained commitment to creative industries, he was named Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Atlantic University College (Guaynabo, PR) – the Caribbean’s leading digital arts institution – where he spearheaded the “Introduction to IP” course for both the graduate and undergraduate programs, and was appointed by the Office of the President to develop an Intellectual Property graduate curriculum, where he served until moving to Miami in 2017. He is the founder of the service known as Starving Artists, where he offers innovative business and legal counsel for artists and creatives.


*The following comments are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is limited to the basic facts presented. Additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.

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