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How to Copyright a Recipe? – An Overview

How to Copyright a Recipe – An Overview
| Updated: Sep 06, 2021 | Category: Copyright

Basically, Copyright ownership gives the owner an exclusive right to use the work, with some exceptions. If an individual creates a unique work, fixed in a tangible medium, they automatically own the Copyright to work. All around the world, there is a lot of confusion about what one can take from someone’s recipe and what. For a chef, a recipe can be as unique, personal, and vital as a book for a writer. So one can assume it should have the same legal protection. In this blog, we will discuss different aspects of Copyright a recipe and discuss whether your recipes are safeguarded under Copyright laws or not.

What is Copyright Law?

It safeguards the actual works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. Therefore, the work made should be unique, independently created by a human author, and it should hold at least some minimal degree of creativity involved & also be set in a sufficiently permanent form. Generally, recipes meet most of these requirements. For instance, they are generally fixed in a tangible medium of expression by being documented in a website, cookbook, or piece of paper. But, regardless of meeting the maximum requirements, recipes are frequently not safeguarded by Copyright.

Important Ingredients for Copyright a Recipe

Expression is an essential ingredient for Copyright. There cannot be Copyright a recipe since it only lists ingredients and a method, similar to that of ideas, history, and facts which cannot be copyrighted. Yes, if the recipe is in the written form, it may have Copyright as a literary work. However, this Copyright will include only so far as safeguarding the text of the written recipe & not the underlying dish itself or its method of preparation. So, if anyone prepares a dish using the same recipe as a cookbook, the cookbook owner cannot claim Copyright over a dish because Copyright safeguards the cookbook, not the dish itself.

Musical, literary, artistic, and dramatic works along with sound recordings and cinematography are the works in which Copyright exists, and they are safeguarded under Section 13 of the Copyright Act, 1957[1]. While seeking the meanings of such works under Section 2 of the Act, it is difficult to imagine a work where a recipe that is preparation method of food or drink will be suitable. Thus, keeping jurisprudence aside, our statute does not have any room for entertaining the concept of Copyright as a recipe. The same will apply in the matter of cocktail recipes.

Can you Copyright a Recipe?

Copyright doesn’t safeguard the idea itself. Hence, the dish essence, which is captured through a detailed mixture of ingredients that creates the flavour, cannot be copyrighted under the Copyright Laws. Any individual is free to recreate a similar flavour without any fear of violating Copyright. Just listing the ingredients or clearing up the different phases of a recipe cannot be seen as sufficient ground for Copyright since they would simply be seen as facts.

But, a unique recipe expression can be termed as a literary work that comes within the range of Copyright protection.

Suppose you have a recipe that is innovative & unique and has a creative step in it, and it is more than a procedure of making a specific product or dish. In that case, the IP (Intellectual Property) will get protection under Patents. Anyone can Copyright a recipe or a book of the recipe to create ownership over it and have a date stamp on the same; then, Copyright is the method forward for the same. But, there are certain risks in filing a Patent for a recipe. If such a recipe is an original or innovative one, then you stand the threat of losing the same in simple twenty years because once the Patent expires, then the method will come under the public domain, and anyone can use it without consent. That is one of the reasons why some of the well-known recipes, for example, the recipe of Coca-Cola, is not safeguarded by a Patent rather it is safeguarded as a Trade Secret.

Case Study Concerning Copyright a Recipe

Lately, a case was registered in the United States Food Network vs Sugar Hero Copyright Infringement Case in which Food Network was used for Copyright Infringement by an autonomous food entrepreneur or blogger. Upon examination of the IPKat coverage of the problem including, the accurate background supporting the claim becomes clear.

Case Facts

Sugar Hero is a website run by Elizabeth Labau, and she’s a blogger. Through this site, she shares her different, creative, self-made recipes in different ways, which comprise pictures, videos, etc. This website is her major source of revenue, which is generated through advertisements & affiliate sales. It is also said to have collected a lot of beneficial attention for Ms Labau and making its full-time search.

She created one recipe, which was a snow globe cupcake recipe, which became super popular amongst everyone. Afterwards, she published a video on her Facebook telling how to make snow globe cupcake recipes. It includes a rapid overview of the ingredients to be used and a detailed explanation of the recipe and the usage of elements in the recipe; there was no verbal command in the video; only a tune was played in the background.

Law Applied in the Present Case

Copyrights safeguard the innovative works of the author, and the two videos, in this case, would qualify as creative work & they would be safeguarded to a certain extent under Copyright.

The inventions mentioned in Section 102 of the Copyright Act mostly deal with subject issues for Patents. To be entitled for a Patent, the invention must be beneficial, innovative and unique. Moreover, in the United States, an inventor has to file a Patent within a time of one year from the first public disclosure date or else the invention comes under the public domain. In the case of snow globe cupcakes, most likely, they were not patented. Hence, anyone could make, sell, or use them in their judgment.

Furthermore, Copyright protection will be entirely restricted in the videos of the Sugar Hero as the videos are completed in definite sequential steps and in a prescribed manner. After examining both the videos, I believe there are enough grounds of difference in both the videos & the video of Food Network would be non-violating and I assume that the suit of Sugar Hero to be victorious.


So, in the end, one can go for Copyright a recipe and protect their food recipe from establishing ownership over it and having a date stamp on it. And also, you can preserve a recipe by Patent to safeguard their recipe for twenty years, and then the recipe will fall in the public domain. With proper planning and applying procedures before revealing your precious recipes, you can take vital steps to avoid the failure of a stolen recipe.

Read our article:Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 – Rights Vs. Piracy Debate

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A legal writing enthusiast, a wanderer, and a zealous reader. After gaining a lot of knowledge about the diverse legal topics and developing research skills, Karan joined the league of legal content writers to deliver quality-rich blogs.

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