At TexasRestaurantLaw.com, we have covered “Who Owns Your Restaurant Name?” and “Is Your Restaurant Recipe Safe?” However, we have not previously discussed the many parts of restaurant intellectual property. This post shows some of the most critical pieces that encompass restaurant intellectual property.
Your Name & Brand
We all hear that branding is everything. Likewise, you probably put a lot of thought into your brand and name. So how important is it? You might ask the folks at Chips Old Fashioned Hamburgers in Dallas. Because of branding (and a darn good burger), this Texas restaurant was just named as one of America’s top 10 best burger restaurants in the U.S. Here’s the link for the article.
Before making the Top 10 List, Chips wisely used the “TM” next to their logo, which shows that they claim a trademark in their brand. These types of trademarks offer a great amount of protection for a brand, and that is the prime way that restaurants protect this information. Additional protection can occur when the trademark is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Likewise, when buying a restaurant, it is important to ensure that the restaurant owners actually own the name and that it is specifically listed as part of the items being purchased.
Recipes are another key “ingredient” in the totality of a restaurant’s intellectual property. Unlike a brand name, protection for recipes is not available either via a trademark or a patent. Thus, these items remain part of a restaurant’s trade secrets, and it is important to keep them exactly that – a secret.
Inventions are another aspect of a restaurant’s intellectual property. Many restaurant owners invent things, and they often do not realize it. Have you designed a new bottle opener to make beer service faster? Have you had a particular POS system developed by a programmer that is unique to your restaurant? Have you designed a new straw or a new lighting system?
All of these are examples of possible inventions that you should consider protecting via a patent.
Your Trade Secrets
Finally, the catch all of intellectual property for restaurants is the trade secret category. Trade secrets are “everything else”. Restaurant trade secrets can include know-how, customer lists, processes, recipes, and many other items.
However, for these items to really be part of a restaurant’s intellectual property, they must remain secret. The best ways to accomplish this are to (A) have your employees and vendors sign non-disclosure and/or non-compete agreements and (B) when possible, separate pieces of these trade secrets across different parties so that not one party can assemble them all. Again, see our prior story, “Is Your Restaurant Recipe Safe?” for more on this topic.
About the author: Matthew Sanderson is a restaurant lawyer in Texas. “Good service with a smile” is his motto. Click here to find out more about Matthew Sanderson’s legal practice and how he can help you today. Follow him on Twitter @dealattorney.