Legal protection for recipes--bad news for British bakers

Legal protection for recipes--bad news for British bakers

We have become a gastronomic nation, with an abundance of celebrity chefs, a seeming deluge of cookery programs and thousands of food related blogs. But, although nourishment is big business, does anyone actually own the rights to food and drink recipes? Paul Jordan, partner, and Sean Ibbetson, associate, at Bristows, take a look at the legal aspects of recipe protection.

What protection can chefs and producers place upon their recipes and practices?

It is incredibly difficult for chefs and food producers to protect their recipes and practices using intellectual property law.

If a chef or manufacturer can keep the ingredients of a product confidential they may be able to benefit from protection as trade secrets. However, this is only feasible in certain, limited circumstances (discussed below), and does not prevent a third party from attempting to reverse engineer that product.

It is also theoretically possible for a process for the manufacture of a food product to be protected by patent law. However, the usual requirements of patentability pertain, so the manufacturing process could not be obvious to other food manufacturers, based on what is already known by those in the industry. Patent protection lasts for 20 years, so chefs and producers could only protect their novel process for a limited period of time.

Would it be possible to copyright a recipe in the UK?

No, any copyright that subsists in a book of recipes would not be infringed by the

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