Frequently Asked Questions
My product's recipe is secret, how can I protect it?
There are many provisions under UK law which enable the confidentiality of your sensitive information.
Under UK common law there is a ‘duty of confidentiality’ which applies only to information not in the public domain which upon disclosure the recipient explicitly agrees to the extent of the confidentiality, such as a non-disclosure agreement or consent form.
This forms the basis of Trade Secrets (Enforcements Etc.) Regulations (2018) which protects information considered ‘secret’, not generally known, has commercial value due to it’s secrecy (think Colonel Sanders famous recipe) and has been subject to reasonable steps to keep it secret (you don’t quite need to keep a handwritten note in a vault however).
There are many considerations arising from these provisions such as managing trade secrets shared amongst employees, establishing secure contracts with suppliers and how to keep your information protected if you do need to pursue infringement. This is where an experienced IP law firm such as ourselves can keep your most valuable assets secure and your business protected.
What if another business copies my packaging?
Your packaging is one of your brands most visible assets, but it is so easily overlooked when it comes to legal protection. To protect this from copycats there are number of steps you can take:
Trade marks – This one can be tricky. Registering a trade mark covers aspects of your branding such as name and logo, however it can also be applied to packaging if it meets the conditions of trade marking – Is the packaging’s appearance a defining and recognisable (by the consumer) feature of your product? For example Coca Cola trade marked their famous bottle design in the EU in 1980, however in 2016 were unsuccessful in securing a trademark for an update to the bottle. Similarly Cadbury has famously trade marked the colour purple (Pantone 2685C) in the past, although as recently as 2019 lost the trade mark, now relying on design rights to protect their brand.
Design Rights – Whether registered or not your designs are protected for between 3 and 25 years. This can cover things trade marks do not, such as shape, configuration, patterns and materials. Registering your designs provides you with the greatest amount of protection and simplifies the procedure for pursuing infringers.
If you feel like you may need to take legal action to protect your brand we offer many services designed to keep you safe and resolve the issue quickly. Just get in touch and we’ll take it from there.
Does my food or drink product or packaging require a patent?
In the right circumstances patents can be one of the most versatile tools for protecting your inventions. If your new product or process meets the criteria – novelty (not publicly disclosed), inventive (it is a new and innovative step forward within the industry) and has a commercial application, you may be able to patent your product or process.
We are able to provide guidance and assistance with the viability and processing of your patent application.
Can I trade mark my food product?
You can register trade marks for elements of your food product, including the name, logo, and slogan. You can even register the colour and shape of the packaging. However, registering the actual taste or smell of a food product as a trade mark is not as simple.
We discuss this in more detail in our blog post, “Can you trade mark the taste of food?“.