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Patent vs trademark: Which one is better to protect your food recipe?

If you are a chef, or an aspiring chef, then you know that nothing soothes your soul more than when you coming up with a new recipe, and excitement tends to begin when that recipe actually tastes phenomenal. Now, if you are a chef of an entrepreneurial nature, you would want to cash in on it! Now, before you do so, you would want to protect your recipe. There are two ways to legally protect what you have created: patents and trademark. However, which one of this is the better option? Let us take a look into this matter. 

Tuesday August 28, 2018,

5 min Read

You know what makes the chefs go around? Let me give you a guess, it is not what you think! By that I mean that a chef is not always concerned with coming up with a new recipe, they are concerned with protecting the one that they already have.

The reason of this quite simple, when it comes to the culinary world, stealing the recipes from other chefs is not only something that has been relevant since the ancient times; it is something over which wars have been fought.

However, this has caused a major hassle in the world of gastronomic delights; we do not have access to original recipes anymore. No! I am not talking about the ones that are made by James Gordon; I am talking about simple and delight food; home-made happy accidents that are amazing. To that end, it was high time that food recipes started to be treated as Intellectual property and then get the protection that they deserved so that we continue to see many mouth watering delights in the incoming days.

Fortunately, when it comes to foods recipes, they can be both patented and trademarked. However, the way that they protect them is a bit different in both of the cases and throughout the course of this blog; this is the topic that we are going to dive into. 

Protecting the recipes with patents

You can in fact apply for your food recipe to be patented. However, there are several criteria associated with this:

1. The food recipe shouldn’t be revealed to the world before: this is the Novelty part of patent registration. To adhere to this rule, the recipe shouldn’t have been made public in any shape or form. So, as a pro-tip for this: if you have come up with the recipe, stay off YouTube and don't tell the world about it if you want it to become a patent.

2. The food recipe shouldn’t be a combination of the existing foods that already exist: if there are food items that already exist, you cannot just mash them together and come up with a recipe that is worthy of patent registration. To exemplify this nice and proper, you cannot expect to mash together potato chips and chocolate and come up with “potato chocolate chips”.

3. Find a unique way to create your food: The process to create a food matters as much in the culinary industry as the food itself. To that end, if you have come up with a process to create chocolate milk shakes, you can think about patenting it. For example, if your process entails something more vegan instead of eggs to thicken the shake, your recipe might be worthy of a patent. However, you cannot take this idea as I think it is already been taken, but you get the point!

Adhering to all of these might be borderline impossible thing to do. However, patent is not something that is to be taken lightly. Furthermore, when you are talking about the cooking industry, there are quite few patents that exist in terms of recipes. To that end, you can actually understand why it might be difficult. 

Trademarking the food recipes

Now, when it comes to patents, many of you might have already averted their thoughts away from it considering the amount of criteria that are needed to be followed. To that end, Trademarking is another way to protect your recipes. The way to do so is to trademark your food recipes as a brand name. Now, this will make sure that the recipe is protected from infringement and by the end of the day; this is in fact what protecting your recipe all is about.

This Trademarking approach to protect the food recipes is used by many big restaurant chains. However, the process is also applicable even if you are running a small scale eatery.

What if you cannot patent or trademark your recipe?

While we can push patent or trademark for food recipes how much we want; the truth is, the way to attaining any of them can be difficult unless you have access to amazing personnel who can help you with the endeavor. However, what if patenting or trademarking are not the options that you can in fact pursue? What to do then?

Well, you will be happy to know that you are safe in both the instances. Why? Well, there is an innocuous yet an effective way to make sure that you are protected and this way is called "trade secrets". However, this particular way to protect your culinary recipe is not something that is legally binding. That being said, if you are up for it, what is the harm?


Food recipes are something that can in fact be patented or trademarked to be protected. However, it is a culinary matter and is “the” most common aspect of human day to day life. To that end, getting actual IP protection for this is actually difficult. If you are not able to deal with this difficulty, you can go with the non-legal binding “trade-secret” angle. However, if you want to take a more legal and enforced route, you can go with the IP registration methods.