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Can You Patent A Recipe

Can You Patent a Recipe? Yes! Let’s Explore How.

Joshua Julien Brouard

Joshua Julien Brouard

27 March 20247 min read

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 Can You Patent a Recipe? Yes! Let’s Explore How.

Recipes aren't just about flavors.

They're also about innovation and creativity.

Which brings up an important question:

Can you patent a recipe?

In this comprehensive guide, I'll delve into:

  • What makes a recipe patentable,
  • The types of recipes that qualify,
  • The process of a patent application with the Patent Office,
  • And the advantages and disadvantages associated with patenting a recipe.

Whether you're a chef, a food entrepreneur, or just a curious foodie, understanding the complexities of patenting a recipe is crucial in the modern culinary landscape where competition is fierce.

What makes something patentable?

“Patents are important because they offer you a 20 year monopoly on the patented technology. They put other inventors on notice that this technology is protected and exclusive. They also offer rights holders remedies for infringement.” - Spencer Keller, Patent Agent at Trademarkia. 

According to patent law, there are particular criteria inventions must meet to be patentable. These are as follows:

  • A particular recipe must be entirely new and not previously disclosed in any form, including cookbooks, food blogs, or other public domains. It should be a distinctive creation not known to the public before the date of the patent application.
  • The culinary creation must demonstrate an inventive step that is not obvious to someone with a good understanding of culinary arts. This means the recipe should represent more than a trivial or expected variation of existing recipes.
  • A patentable recipe must have a practical aspect, meaning it must be functional and provide some practical benefit. This could include new methods of preparing food, achieving unique flavors, textures, or nutritional benefits that weren't achievable with prior cooking techniques or ingredient combinations.

(Check out this article on strange food patents — there are interesting ones out there!)

What case law tells us about the patentability of recipes

Researching case law

The case of In re Levin is a notable one in the context of patenting recipes.

The case, decided in 1949 by the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals (CCPA), set an important precedent in the realm of culinary patents.

In this case, the court held that new recipes or formulas for cooking food which involve the elimination or inclusion of common ingredients, or treating them in different ways from previous practices, don't amount to an invention merely because they hadn't been done before.

The court essentially stated that just because no one else had done the particular thing the applicant was asserting a right to patent:

It didn't automatically qualify as a patentable invention.

The significance of this case lies in its emphasis on the need for a "coaction or cooperative relationship between selected ingredients" that produces a new, unexpected, and useful function or result in the recipe.

This set a higher bar for patenting recipes, requiring more than just a novel combination of ingredients or a new preparation method.

It demanded that the recipe demonstrate a significant advancement or unique result that was not obvious to someone with expertise in the culinary field.

(Basically, patents aren’t granted for just any recipe!)

What kind of recipes can be patented?

A recipe should introduce a novel cooking method that hasn't been used before to qualify for a patent.

This could include a new way of processing ingredients, an inventive technique for combining flavors, or a unique method of presentation.

Patents also often favor recipes with ingredient combinations that create unexpected results.

These could involve using non-traditional ingredients in a particular cuisine or combining ingredients to create a new taste or texture experience.

In addition, according to intellectual property law:

Patents are more likely granted to recipes representing a significant leap in culinary science or art.

This could mean:

  • A new method that substantially improves the nutritional value of a dish,
  • A technique that drastically reduces cooking time without compromising quality,
  • Or a recipe that solves a specific culinary challenge.

In essence, a patentable recipe stands out distinctly in the culinary world, not just as a minor tweak to existing recipes:

But as a significant innovation or advancement.

So now that we know the answer to "Can you patent a recipe?" let's explore the type of patent you'll need to file for:

What type of patent will you need for recipes?

When seeking a patent for a recipe, the most appropriate type is a utility patent.

This patent category is suited for recipes because it focuses on the functional elements of an invention.

It provides intellectual property protection for:

  • The specific method or process of preparing the dish,
  • The particular combination of ingredients used,
  • And the unique culinary techniques employed in the creation of the recipe.

This means that the patent covers not just the ingredients list but the unique ways the ingredients are used and combined.

How do you conduct a patent search?

Doing a patent search

Conducting a patent search is a critical step in the patent application process.

But how do you begin this intellectual property search?


Start with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database, a comprehensive resource for existing patents.

Use specific and relevant keywords that reflect the unique aspects of your recipe.

This search should be broad enough to cover various permutations and combinations of your recipe's key elements.

Given the complexity and nuances in patent searches, it's always a good idea to seek the counsel of a qualified intellectual property attorney.

A patent attorney can conduct a search for you, ensuring the search is done comprehensively.

A legal professional can also interpret the search results and how they might affect your patent application.

How do you file a patent application?

To file a patent application for a recipe with the Patent Office, it's crucial to prepare a comprehensive documentation package.

This includes:

  • An in-depth description of the ingredients and their proportions,
  • Detailed preparation steps,
  • And an explanation of how the recipe is novel and non-obvious.


It's essential to include any unique aspects of the recipe that highlight its inventiveness.

Include detailed drawings, diagrams, or photographs.

These can be highly beneficial to illustrate the preparation process or the final dish.

But because of these complexities:

It's best to contact a patent attorney when dealing with intellectual property.

A patent attorney can guide you through the complexities of intellectual property and the patent application process.

This will ensure that all technical details and legal requirements are appropriately addressed.

(And put you one step closer to getting your patent!)

Learn more: Read our article “Patent Filing 101.”

What are the advantages and disadvantages of patents?

Let's explore the upsides and downsides of filing a patent with the Patent and Trademark Office, starting with the positives:

The advantages of patents

  • Patenting a recipe provides you with exclusive rights over your invention for a set period, usually 20 years.
  • This exclusivity allows for control over the use and commercialization of the recipe, potentially leading to significant monetary benefits.
  • It also prevents others from using, selling, or duplicating the patented recipe without permission, offering a substantial competitive advantage in the market.

(And you get bragging rights — you can say you have a patent!)

The disadvantages of patents

  • Obtaining a patent can be costly, involving filing and potentially attorney fees.
  • The process is also time-consuming, requiring detailed preparation and possibly several years to complete.
  • Additionally, after the patent expires, the recipe falls into the public domain, allowing anyone to use it without restriction.

Alternatives to patenting your recipe

While the answer to "Can you patent a recipe?" is a resounding yes, it's not the only solution:

If patenting a recipe doesn't seem like the right fit, other ways exist to protect and capitalize on your culinary creations.


One option is keeping the recipe as a trade secret, much like the famous Coca-Cola formula.

Trade secret protection requires no formal process, but it does necessitate stringent internal controls to prevent disclosure.

Copyright protection can be used for written materials, such as cookbooks or articles, but not for the recipes themselves.

Lastly, trademark protection can be employed for the name or branding associated with a unique dish, offering some protection and market recognition.

Each alternative has unique considerations, benefits, and limitations, so it's essential to weigh your options based on your specific circumstances and goals.

Helpful patent lawyer

It's vital to recognize that while patents offer strong legal remedies against infringement, alternatives like trade secrets may not provide the same level of legal recourse.

Patents legally protect your creation through patent law.

They also allow you to take action against unauthorized use.

However, if a recipe is kept as a trade secret, the legal protections can be more ambiguous and challenging to enforce.

Ready to protect your invention? See what a patent attorney can do for you on Trademarkia's Patent Express.


How much does it cost to patent a recipe?

The cost of patenting a recipe varies significantly based on legal fees, complexity, and country of filing. In the US, for example, the price is typically a few thousand dollars. This includes a patent search, filing fees, and attorney costs.

How do you protect a recipe?

To protect a recipe, you can consider options like a trade secret, where you keep the recipe confidential and only share it under non-disclosure agreements, or a patent if the recipe is novel, non-obvious, and useful. Patents, however, require full disclosure of the recipe.

Can you copyright a recipe?

Copyright law typically doesn't protect recipes themselves, as they’re considered formulas or methods. However, the written expression of a recipe, such as the text uniquely describing the steps and ingredients, could be eligible for copyright protection.

How do you trademark a recipe?

Trademarking a recipe involves trademarking the name, logo, or branding associated with the dish, not the recipe itself. This is done by filing a trademark application with the relevant governmental body, demonstrating that your mark is distinctive and used in commerce to identify your goods or services.

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Joshua J. Brouard has a diverse background. He has studied bachelor of commerce with a major in law, completed SEO and digital marketing certifications, and has years of experience in content marketing. Skilled in a wide range of topics, he's a versatile and knowledgeable writer.