Tips for protecting your trade secrets

You can't copyright a bread recipe - but you could cover it with an NDA agreement.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)

bread_loaf.ce.03.jpg
Ask FSB
Get small-business intelligence from the experts. Here's a chance for YOU to ask your pressing small-business questions, and FSB editors will help you get answers from the appropriate experts.
Your name:
* Your e-mail address:
* Your city:
* Your state:
* Your daytime phone #:
* Your questions:

(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: Can I copyright bread? My wife makes a special kind of bread that's not available in grocery stores. We don't have our own baking facilities and would like to work with a local baker on a contract basis. So the issue is, how can we prevent the baker from stealing and using our recipe?

- Louis, Atlanta, Ga.

Dear Louis: Copyright doesn't protect recipes, but that doesn't mean the baker can steal your bread while it warms on the proverbial windowsill. Otherwise, Sara Lee (SLE, Fortune 500) could never have built a multi-billion dollar business.

A confidentiality agreement and a non-compete contract will help protect your intellectual property.

"Treat the recipe, the ingredients - at least the quantities - and the baking method, if novel, as trade secrets so that protection can exceed three years, the maximum in Georgia," says Glenn Lyon, a partner at MacGregor Lyon LLC, a law firm in Atlanta.

You may also be able to patent some unique or creative process in your recipe. But you don't want to copyright the recipe itself, because registered copyrights are public information. Anyone can read them.

That's why the Coca-Cola Company (KO, Fortune 500) didn't copyright the recipe for Coke. If it did, anyone could make their own Coke at home. They couldn't legally sell their homebrewed Coke, but no law would prevent them from drinking it.

You should talk to a lawyer about the specifics of non-compete and confidentiality agreement. Other intellectual property practices in the Atlanta area include Myers & Kaplan LLC, McClain & Merritt and Krevolin & Horst, LLC.  To top of page

To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.

Ask a Question



QMy dream is to launch my own business someday. Now that it's time to choose a major, I'm debating if I should major in entrepreneurial studies or major in engineering to acquire a set of skills first. Is majoring in entrepreneurship a good choice? More
Get Answer
- Spate, Orange, Calif.
'My biggest retirement mistake' Five CNNMoney readers share stories about saving that you can learn from. What they would do differently if they had another chance. More
Inside a $60,000 vacation of a lifetime Private jet tours around the world are growing in popularity, with a number of companies cropping up to take travelers on luxe, bucket-list trips. Here's a look at one 17-day journey, run by TCS Expeditions, that will take 78 people to some of the most lusted-over destinations. The price: $60,000 per couple. More
Don't want a bigger iPhone? Here are 6 alternatives Apple's next-generation iPhones are set to be the largest ever. But for those of us who don't want to give up any more space in our pockets, here are a few smaller options. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.