There are only three people who know the recipe for coke, and they’re never allowed to travel on the same plane. The secret blend of herbs and spices for KFC is stored in a safe, under lock and key, in a vault and only accessed by the boss of the company.  McDonald’s secret sauce is delivered to restaurants in sealed containers and no member of staff knows the full recipe or all the ingredients.

Why is it that foods – especially take away style foods – feature such closely guarded secrets?

The short answer is, it’s easy. Keeping something secret shouldn’t cost very much. It saves trying to get everyone to enter into a confidentiality agreement (or NDA) – more on that here. There is, of course, the added bonus of a mystical air that marketers can use to great advantage. But overwhelmingly, it is because there’s nothing else that can protect that flavour, mouthfeel or experience, other than keeping those unique ingredients or methods a secret.

It is not, however, the only form of protection that the businesses named above have sought. The other key intellectual property right each one had protected from the beginning, was its brand. The trade mark system (currently both UK only and EU wide) is, arguably, the single most powerful monopoly you can buy.

Registration of the trade mark, along with considered confidentiality (and a healthy dose of good marketing) lead to the international successes of these companies. For any business which has a unique method, ingredient or “trade secret”, the recipe for ensuring long term success is no secret: protect what you can, as soon as you can, and before it goes to market.

Trade mark protection in the UK can be obtained for £500 and can last forever – find out if you can protect your mark and how much it would cost here.

If you would like to discuss the trade mark system in more detail please contact Jessica O’Riordan, a solicitor in the IP/IT team, on 01392 210700 or by e-mail ip.it@stephens-scown.co.uk.