Beyond trademarks, protectable intellectual property (IP) is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when one has developed a new food or beverage product. However, novel and non-obvious technical aspects of food products, packaging and manufacturing methods/recipes can be patented, while registered design protection can be sought for striking visual features.
Some very familiar products, such as rice cakes (Quaker Oats - EP1025764), granola bars (Quaker Oats - US4451488), and orange juice (Tropicana - WO 2004/060083) have been the subject of patent protection.
Moreover, recipes, such as those that produce bread with improved texture or size (Warbutons - GB2545647) have attracted patent protection. This effectively debunks the common misconception that recipes are not patentable, in reality they are so long as they solve a technical problem.
Obtaining a patent allows the proprietor to stop a competitor from directly or indirectly copying their products/process as well as importing such products. Put simply, a patent allows the proprietor to enjoy the just rewards of its R&D labour and to be the exclusive provider of the product/process, thereby providing a competitive edge in the market.
The team at Mathys & Squire has a wealth of experience in protecting its clients' food and beverage innovations, including those of many household names, such as Warbutons, PepsiCo, Quaker Oats, and Müller.
This article first appeared in Food And Drink Matters in March 2019.