Every industry uses intellectual property (IP), with no exception. Many small business owners may think that they don’t need or use it in their businesses, but they are mistaken. To explain why it is so important and how businesses use IPs without realizing it, we want to break down how intellectual property is used in the food industry. 

Many small businesses are within the food industry. Almost everyone knows of a restaurant or a franchise restaurant run by a family member, friend, or neighbor. These entrepreneurs use IP to help their businesses turn a profit, many without even realizing it.

3 Ways IP is Used in the Food Industry

The food industry uses several different types of intellectual property in multiple ways.

1. Patents in the Food Industry

Patents are one of the most common types of IP in the food industry. They can be used in many ways to supply methods for running a business and supplying a product. Some food companies can use patented technology to prepare their dishes or clean their equipment and locations.

It doesn’t matter what type of food an establishment is serving. There is likely a patent behind its creation. These patents commonly take the form of:

  • Formulas
  • Processes
  • Methods
  • Food ingredients

Many small businesses in the food industry have to deal with patents they don’t own as well. Food industry IPs are commonly shared and/or licensed to other non-competitors in the industry. When this is the case, these partners likely create a contract that prohibits the small business from repurposing, recreating, using, or selling their product in any way other than the one outlined in the agreement. If they do, the small business will be in violation of a patent. 

Business owners also need to know how and what they are allowed to use the patented items/products for. Knowing how prevalent patents are in the industry is important so you can avoid accidentally committing patent infringement, and not only to protect your own IP. Understanding how this works in the food industry will also help business owners in other industries avoid committing patent infringement as well.

2. Trade Secrets in the Food Industry

The food industry has some of the most famous trade secrets that are used in small businesses around the world. There isn’t a recipe or formula that isn’t or was at one time a trade secret. A famous example would be Coca-Cola’s variety of sodas.

Even though Coke is a famous brand of drink that can be found everywhere, businesses that have Coke on their shelves can only do one thing with the product: sell it. If a small business tries to reverse engineer it or help someone else do this, it would violate the trade secret and lead to severe consequences.

3. Trademarks in the Food Industry

Coca-Cola’s products in their advertisements without official permission, they would be violating the trademark. 

The food industry, more than most industries, uses products with IP trademarks on them. This means that they have to be incredibly careful not to use them in their advertising, even by accident. If they do, they would be committing trademark infringement.

Trademarks are the most common type of IP across nearly every industry. Every company has a brand that they need to protect, and they can do that with trademarks. Many small businesses, including those in the food industry, don’t realize that they need to trademark their business’s name, logo, and branding to protect its identity.

Contact the Attorneys at ETB Law to Help Your Small Business Deal With IP Protections

Every business owner should be aware of what IP protections are and how they work. If you are not and need help determining how to avoid committing IP infringement or how to protect your own IP with trademarks and trade secrets, our attorneys can help. 

We’ll review your case and offer a solution to your issues if necessary. We can also file for and maintain any type of IP protection you and your business may need. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.



We provide complete intellectual property representation to business owners, inventors and artists in all matters related to the establishment and protection of domestic and international patents, trademarks and copyrights. Attorneys at our firm also serve as in-house IP counsel for companies whose needs do not call for a full-time internal position.

Akron Office

1914 Akron-Peninsula Road
Akron, OH 44313

Wedgewood Office Park

3841B Attucks Drive
Powell, OH 43065-6082






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