Is it Possible to Copyright or Patent Cooking Recipes?


In a culinary world, professional chefs (and even amateur chefs) often come out with new recipes to cook flavoured dishes or to bake new pastry.  People flock to restaurants owned by famous chefs like Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver, simply to taste their food.  However, with the correct recipe their dishes can easily be imitated therefore frequent customers could actually cook the world class gourmet food themselves and have it in their very own kitchen. Is it possible to use copyright or patents to protect the final product of their new dishes and their cooking recipes? Are there any legal basis for protecting and creating a dish?

What is copyright and patent protection and their purposes?

Copyright protects the expression of ideas in any recorded form and such examples would include published books, painting, music, performances. Ideas or discovering methods of cooking are not protected by copyright. Copyright is an automatic right and need not be registered. Therefore, so long as the author publishes his work in a tangible form, he would automatically enjoy copyright protection.

A patent is a right given to an inventor to prevent others from infringing and taking monetary advantage of his invention. For an invention to be patentable, it must be new, have an inventive step, and is of industrial application. Â Patents need to be registered in order to gain protection and ownership.

Application to Cooking Recipes

Copyright could potentially be available to protect publications of recipe books however, it does not protect the final product. Â Anyone who makes copies of the recipe books and publish it as their own could potentially be liable for copyright infringement. Â However, if anyone takes a particular recipe and follows instructions written in the recipe book and serves the dish as their own in their restaurant cannot be held liable for copyright infringement.

A patent could protect a recipe by filing a patent and only if the chef has come out with a new method of preparing the dish. This would be difficult as the invention cannot be common or be blatantly obvious.

How then, do restaurants or businesses in the food industry protect their food and reputation? What about online websites like or blog forums that publish recipes not belonging to them?

Part 2 deals with trade secrets in the food industry and online websites publishing recipes.

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