You can patent many types of inventions and creations. There are utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. That said, we’ll explore where cuisine/food recipes fall with: can you patent a recipe?

Can you patent a recipe?

No, you cannot patent a recipe in the traditional sense. A recipe is a set of instructions for preparing a particular dish, and it is not considered a novel invention or discovery that can be patented. A patent provides legal protection to the inventor of a new, useful and non-obvious invention or discovery, which typically includes products or processes that have a functional and technical aspect. It gives the inventor the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing the invention for a certain period of time, usually 20 years from the date of filing.

However, recipes do not meet the criteria for a patentable invention. They are typically considered to be a collection of ingredients and steps, which are widely known and used in the food industry. Moreover, the mere combination of known ingredients does not result in a new and non-obvious invention that can be patented.

Copyright for recipes

In some cases, a recipe may be protected under copyright law, which gives the creator of original literary, musical or artistic works the exclusive right to use and reproduce the work. Copyright law can protect the expression of a recipe, such as the written instructions and descriptions, as well as any photographs or illustrations that accompany the recipe. This means that others cannot copy or use the exact same expression of the recipe without the permission of the copyright owner.

However, copyright protection does not extend to the underlying idea or concept of the recipe. In other words, others are free to use the ingredients and basic steps of a recipe, but they cannot copy the exact wording, arrangement or presentation of the recipe without the permission of the copyright owner.

Recipes as Trade secrets

Another way to protect a recipe is through trade secret law, which allows companies to keep certain information, such as a recipe, confidential and protect it from being disclosed to the public or competitors. Trade secret protection applies as long as the information is kept secret and the owner takes reasonable steps to maintain its confidentiality.

For example, the recipe for Coca-Cola is a well-known trade secret that has been protected for over a century. The company has kept the formula confidential and only a few top executives have access to it. This allows the company to maintain its competitive advantage and prevent others from copying its product.

In conclusion, recipes cannot be patented, but they can be protected under copyright or trade secret law. Copyright protection applies to the expression of the recipe, while trade secret protection applies to the confidential information that the owner takes steps to keep secret. If you have a unique and valuable recipe, it is important to consider the different forms of legal protection that may be available to you.



The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property, an initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, provides access to empowering IP education for budding inventors and entrepreneurs. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon Dr. Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson. To learn more, visit