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Can you protect a recipie with a patent or copyright ?

Columbus, OH |

I just want to protect my creations

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Attorney answers 6


Both are possible. Consult with an attorney.

This is not a legal advice or solicitation, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consult with an attorney. I work for Cardinal Risk Mangement and Cardinal Intellectual Property, IP service companies, but not law firms. I also am the president of Vepachedu Educational Foundation Inc., which is a non profit educational foundation. I also write cultural and scientific compliations for the foundation. I also teach at Northwestern university as a guest lecturer. I also provide some pro-bono guidance on immigration and other issues through Indian American Bar Association. I also have a contract with Cardinal Law Group, a law firm, for IP projects. All this information is on my profile at Avvo and also at Linkedin. Any views/opinions expressed in any context are my personal views in individual capacity only, and do not represent the views and opinions of any firm, client, or anyone else, and is not sponsored or endorsed by them in any way.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick


This is wrong. See other answers.


Contrary to my colleague's conclusions, neither patent law nor copyright law can "protect [your] creations."

Very few [if any] recipes that list the ingredients and cooking instructions for consumer food products are copyrightable -- and even those that are, because they add to the list other creative language, the copyright does NOT prevent anyone else from making that product [the copyright only precludes them from copying or distributing that recipe].

And very, very few [if any] such recipes are patentable. Although some food product manufacturers patent the recipes for their products, those products are not consumer food dishes -- they are the constitutent products that are then combined to make other food products.

Speak with your own intellectual property attorney but expect to be told that once you make public a particular food product anyone else may lawfully make and sell that product. Your best way forward is to discuss with your own attorney how to go about branding the products you're creating -- not the recipes for those products.

The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.


Probably not, and not if you want to keep it a secret.

First, copyright will not prevent other people from making your recipe.

Second, it is unlikely a recipe for food is patentable.

Third, both methods require the recipe be made public knowledge.

Your only real option is trade secret, and that protects against someone stealing your idea, but would not prevent other people from making your recipe if you disclose it to them.

you should consult with an IP attorney.


You cannot protect a recipe under copyright law because it is a fact and CR law does not extend to facts. Now you can protect a recipe book, that is more specifically, the creative expression in your organization of the recipes you compiled, for example.

Most recipes will be treated as trade secrets but you have to take pro active measures to ensure a court will respect them as such. For example, maintaining a plan of confidentiality regards to the info (see link below for more info on thins topic).

Regards to patent, and to my experience, recipes are only protected when the process itself is also protected. That is, a novel, non-obvious way of making something may be protected under patent law given the right conditions. That said, typically, patents in this space will cover things like extending shelf life, etc. If you believe that you have something that may benefit from patent protection you should discuss with a lawyer and do not make it public.

You may want to discuss with a lawyer in private. Most of us here, including myself, offer a free phone consult.

Best regards,
Natoli-Lapin, LLC
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The law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC (Home of Lantern Legal Services) offers our flat-rate legal services in the areas of business law and intellectual property to entrepreneurs, small-to-medium size businesses, independent inventors and artists across the nation and abroad. Feel free to call for a free phone consultation; your inquiries are always welcome: CONTACT: 866-871-8655 DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.


If you do not intend to publish them but use the result of the recipes (the food) in some commercial venture, you may be better off keeping the recipes a secret. You can speak to a local attorney about how to protect your personal and business trade secrets through non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements and what other steps you can take to try to protect the secret such as marking all documents as confidential and proprietary. This will not protect someone else from tasting your food and figuring out the recipe but it has worked for Coca-Cola for a long time. If you are not going to pursue commercial avenues, just do not tell anyone about them.

Answers to questions are for general purposes only and do not establish an attorney-client relationship between the commentor or any other person reading the response whether it was the original requestor or any other person. The answer is based upon the very general understanding of the question as written and takes it at face value. For detailed and specific guidance, please consult your attorney or contact an attorney or other appropriate professional directly.


No, a recipe is not copyrightable, although a particularly expressive set of instructions in a recipe might be. However, it is an academic point as that would not prevent someone from just replacing the fancy wording with generic type instructions, so even such a copyright would be really quite meaningless. So as a practical matter a recipe is not protectable by copyright.

As to patent, a method of manufacturing a food item might be patentable, however the recipe for it would not. So someone might, for a limited term of about 17 years (20 years from filing less about 3 years pendency time) lock up the method embodied in a recipe. However, enforcement of such a patent would be nigh on impossible, as what are you going to do - go into every kitchen in the country and install a video camera to see if they use your method? So while a patent might be possible on the method, that is an academic point because the practicalities make it unenforceable. So the answer to your question is that you cannot PROTECT a recipe with a patent because, by its nature, a recipe is used in an individual setting where you will never know and where if you do know you cannot economically enforce the patent.

So how do you protect a recipe? Well, think to the Bush's beans advertisements and keep that "family recipe" secret and don't let the dog sell it out from under you. Coca Cola claims to still have that famous recipe secret, although their cola has been reverse enginered many, many times and the formula has likely changed many, many times.

The recipe is just a means to an end, after all. What you want is to make money. Use the trade secrecy to protect the recipe while you establish your FAMOUS AMOS, your WONDER BREAD, your TWINKIE, your OREO, etc. brand name. The brand name, unlike the recipe can be protected and once used and established and secured properly can last forever.

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.

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