Food and beverage companies utilize trade secret protection to protect their recipes. Direct patent protection is generally reserved for protection of the processing and packaging aspects of food and beverage products. Companies might use direct patent protection to avoid the difficulties of arguing with the USPTO that a food or beverage recipe is non-obvious.
Still, patents related to performance food and beverage products specifically formulated for use during strenuous activities (e.g., extended backpacking treks, ultramarathons, triathlons, etc.) have recently been successful at the USPTO.
For example, the University of Florida was granted a patent for an improvement on the Gatorade formula that included the addition of glycerol within a certain percentage range (U.S. Pat. No. 4,981,687). The addition of glycerol to the formula was found to help maintain a user’s blood volume at much higher levels during strenuous activity compared to formulas without the glycerol addition.
The patent was granted to the University of Florida with the following independent claim:
1. In a beverage comprising water, sugar, and electrolytes, an improvement wherein said beverage further comprises glycerol in a concentration of from about 0.5% to about 5.0%.
So, at least in the realm of performance food and beverage products, it may be worth considering direct patent protection for a recipe itself.