Protect food recipe

It’s not easy to protect a new food recipe. How can patents, design registrations and trademarks help?


Let’s take the McDonald’s Big Mac burger. The name BIG MAC is a registered trademark. So, no-one can use a mark confusingly similar to BIG MAC when referring to foodstuff. But, McDonald’s trademark cannot prevent others from using the word “BIG” in a “normal way”. So, if you make a big burger, you may call it a BIG BURGER.

Big Mac


The burger has two patties spaced by a third bun portion, with wonderful cheese sauce and gherkins. McDonald’s may have been the first to use a “middle bun”. But is this patentable? No. What may have been patentable is McDonald’s process for making its “longest-lasting” burger patties so cheaply – there must be a “secret process step” in there somewhere. In any event, this patent would have expired after 20 years, i.e. in 1987.


Since the shape was new, McDonald’s could have protected this (highlighting the “third bun”) by filing a registered design. But, these designs would generally have expired by 1982.

So, where does this leave McDonald’s? Without much real protection. So, Burger King brought out the BIG KING …

Big Mac

That couldn’t have pleased Ronald.

Visit Iptica Patent Recipe for great tips on patenting your recipe, design registering your foodstuff, branding your drink and labelling your food packaging. Also, see our DIY provisional patent drafting and filing guide.

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