Four Types Of IP Protection For Your F&B Business

Four Types Of IP Protection For Your F&B Business

We believe every food & beverage business has one-of-a-kind qualities worth protecting.

Unique ideas are everywhere in the F&B industry. From secret recipes to functional packaging, quirky names to eye-catching logos, these are several of the many standout ideas deserving of Intellectual Property (IP) protection. 

IP is fundamentally an idea of the mind. Once produced into a tangible product, you may claim IP ownership of this creation. However, many business owners fail to understand the value of protecting their IP till it’s too late. One of the most common forms of IP theft is stealing an idea or trade secret from a competitor. Keep in mind an idea is always free unless protected by IP law. IP theft will be difficult to prove unless the IP is filed and registered accordingly. 

Once IP is registered, it may be licensed, transferred, assigned or sold for a fee agreed between both parties. Many F&B businesses utilize IP licensing as an additional source of income through licensing its product, process or own branding. Needless to say, the F&B industry relies heavily on the value of creative processes and requires IP protection to safeguard valuable ideas in order to thrive. 


A trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of an individual or business from another. Trademarks are usually associated with logos, slogans, names, words, colors, shapes, phrases or a combination of the aforementioned. For example, the phrase ‘I’m lovin’ it’ is well known as fast food chain McDonald’s classic tagline. McDonald’s Corporation filed trademark protection for the phrase as early as 2003 and the phrase has been safeguarded since. 

F&B businesses should aim to protect their branding first and foremost. This includes the name of their company or product, alongside its logo, design or phrase relevant to the business. Trademark registration is crucial for F&B businesses in order to prevent others from piggybacking off their good name or reputation built over the years. F&B owners also need to keep in mind that trademark registration is a non-negotiable requirement prior to establishment franchising. 

Read more about trademarks here

Key things to do: 

  • Conduct a trademark search 
  • File your trademark locally and/or internationally
  • Remember to renew your trademark

Trade Secret

Trade secrets are IP rights on confidential information. Such information, such as recipes, formulations, manufacturing processes or any type of information that gives your business a competitive edge and is undisclosed to third parties is worthy of trade secret protection. Trade secret protection is critical for chefs or recipe makers in the F&B business to prevent communication of confidential information to third parties, such as in-house recipes or food technology. 

Trade secrets are not as simple as declaring a piece of valuable information as one. F&B owners need to establish Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and designate the information as such in contracts between employees or business partners. 

In Malaysia, trade secret protection is initiated through legally binding contracts. There is no specific legislation governing trade secret protection. Therefore, should you decide to enforce trade secret protection, cases will be taken through via regular Malaysian court instead of the Malaysian IP court. 

Read more about trade secrets here.

Key things to do:

  • Identify in detail information classified as trade secrets
  • Establish an NDA with relevant parties

Geographical Indication

A geographical indication (GI)  is a mark or sign used to designate the region or area from which the product originates and to which possess a quality or reputation that is attributable to that origin. A famed case in Malaysian concerns the fight over the ‘Musang King’ name, where more than 100 trademarks were filed in overseas countries under several variants of ‘Musang King’. The outrage came from the desire to maintain Malaysia’s strong international reputation as the producer of the particular type of durian. GI can also indicate methods of production or ingredients of the product specific to a region or area which contributes to its uniqueness. Famous of GI protected goods include Bordeaux wine, Champagne and Parma Ham.

In Malaysia, only producers maintaining activity in the geographical area have the right to use a registered GI in their business. 

Read more about Geographical Indications here.

Industrial Design 

Industrial Design (ID) protects the ornamental or aesthetic aspects of a product, such as its shape, color, material, configuration, pattern, line or a combination of these. For F&B businesses, extra attention needs to be given to the design and packaging of products. The triangular shape of Toblerone’s chocolate bar is a prime example of a distinct design that gives the product a memorable edge. Gaining protection for your design can prevent competitors from passing off your unique packaging as their own invention. 

Read more about Industrial Design here.

Key things to do:

  • Ensure your design is  new and novel
  • Do not disclose your design to the public prior to ID registration
  • Remember to renew ID protection

Get in touch with us for a free and thorough consultation on Intellectual Property protection for Food & Beverage businesses.

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