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Can i trademark or copyright the name of a sauce i have developed and plan on bringing onto the market?

Seattle, WA |

i have a sauce name that i would like to have copyrighted also the recipe is that possible?

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Attorney answers 9

Best Answer

You cannot copyright the name of your sauce, but you might be able to use it as a trademark. Before doing so, you need counsel to conduct a trademark search to assure that you are free to use the trademark without violating trademark rights owned by others.

You can copyright a publication that consists of one or more recipes. But this protection is very limited--it protects only the specific manner in which you describe the recipe---it does not protect the ideas underlying the recipe. Copyright law does not protect ideas (such as recipes), but it will protect the manner in which your idea is described in a specific writing. This protection is weak for a recipe, since someone else could come along and write the recipe in different words without violating your copyright.

The best protections for recipes are either trade secrets (such as the formula for Coca Cola) or patents. Many candy bar makers (such as Mars) hold patents that cover the recipe for making their various confections. However, it can be very difficult and expensive to get a patent---you will have to convince a patent examiner that your recipe is novel and non-obvious compared to the prior art, and this is almost always impossible. The best approach to protecting a recipe is probably to maintain it as a trade secret---but this means that you cannot publish the recipe and that you must take aggressive steps to maintain its confidentiality. Companies that have recipes for menu items often require all employees to sign confidentiality agreements prohibiting disclosure of the secret recipe. Assuming you lay the proper legal foundation, trade secret protection is probably the best approach for protecting recipes.

But this is not a DIY job. You need to retain legal counsel to put in place procedures an practices for maintaining confidentiality. Once the genie (trade secret) comes out of the bottle and becomes known to members of the public, it is no longer a trade secret.

Now let's be super practical here. Why are you wasting your time trying to protect a recipe? Even if your expensive lawyers find a way to protect your specific recipe, what is the point if you do not have the resources to enforce these protections against infringers. The economics of the restaurant and food business usually make it economically impractical to enforce claims for recipe infringement. There are very few reported cases about alleged recipe infringement simply because these cases are not economically sensible to pursue. Most restaurants, bakeries and other food companies protect their brand by serving consistent, high quality food that attains a following among consumers. If your recipe is really good, people will find it and reward you economically. And if someone imitates your recipe that may not even be harmful to you---it may be a form of flattery that further enhances the reputation of your business. In short, IP rights don't usually work well with food---wine and beer work a lot better.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick


You're just showing off! LOL Great answer.


It sounds like you need trademark protection for the brand, and may want to consider copyright protection if you have unique label. A number of attorneys on here can assist.

This is not to be construed as legal advice, and I am not your attorney, A conflict check and engagement letter would necessarily be required before any retention or attorney/client privilege exists.


You can not claim copyright protection for names. You may be able to obtain trademark protection. Recipes are hard to protect. You can not copyright the underlying concepts and ideas, but you can protect your creative expression, which is the way you describe the recipe. That is a difficult line to draw, even for experienced attorneys. If you want to pursue this further you need to talk to an attorney.

This answer is not intended to be a substitute for personalized legal advice. I have presented only an overview of the legal issues. There are many nuances and some exceptions to general legal principles. Real problems are very fact based.. If you have a specific legal problem, you should consult an attorney. You can find more useful information on my law firm website resources page at or you can contact me directly at or (206) 524-0655.


You should definitely consider obtaining trademark registration for the brand name and/or logo of your product. Additionally, you can maintain protection of your recipe through trade secret laws. It would be wise of you to seek counsel on this matter and I would be happy to help. Best of luck!


Hi. You should consult an IP attorney on the brand name before you launch. The name is covered by trademark law. Good Luck!


Trademark protection would protect your rights in the brand name. For example, Tabasco is a registered trademark). For new company names or product names, I generally recommend having a trademark attorney perform and search and provide an opinion regarding whether (a) use of the proposed mark is likely to infringe any other marks out there, and (b) whether you are likely to be able to obtain registration of the mark. Then, assuming the mark is clear of significant legal risks, I would recommend having the attorney file a federal trademark application for the mark. That's not the only way to go about securing trademark protection, but it's usually the best protection in most cases.

As far as the recipe goes, the best way to protect that is probably through trade secret law. You would go about that by taking reasonable steps to maintain the secrecy of the recipe, which usually includes confidentiality agreements with employees, contractors, suppliers, and others to whom you might disclose the recipe.

Good luck!

I am an attorney, but I am not YOUR attorney. By providing free, generalized information, I am not entering into an attorney/client relationship with you, nor am I providing legal advice applicable to your particular needs.


The available IP protection consist of Trademarks and Trade Secrets. The first you register and the second you establish a set of documents and procedures to maintain the secret.
For both you need to consult an IP attorney. Good luck

USPTO Registered Patent Attorney, Master of Intellectual Property law, MBA I am neither your attorney, nor my answers or comments in create an attorney-client relationship with you. You may accept or disregard my free advice in at your own risk. I am a Patent Attorney, admitted to the USPTO and to the Florida Bar.


Yes, you should trademark the product before going to market. I have done this for several clients in the past and would be happy to help you. It really does not cost much and provides a good check of your brand strength. (206) 617-9173


Trademark - YES Copyright - NO, that is for artistic works. You might copyright a great new logo or your bottle label or your ads.

Also consider Patent and Trade Secret protection. If the sauce has some key ingredient that is really, really unique for use in sauches, say burnt semiconductor fumes or crushed acidified banana tree leaves, then you might be able to patent the method of making that sauce or the composition of the sauce - that patent might cost you $10K or more. More likely is you have commonly available ingredients and you want to protect using trade secrecy and touting that "secret family recipe" so you can have your dog offering to sell that recipe it in your ads like Bush Beans does. As long as you keep it secret, others don't really know if they know it.

I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick


Remember COKE and their world famous "secret formula"? Sauces benefit from that sort of hype, also.

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