Protecting Restaurant Intellectual Property

With the rise of digital and social media platforms being used for advertising, it is crucial for restaurants owners to protect their rightful intellectual property. It takes a great deal of creativity to grow a business, so the National Restaurant Association has come up with seven ways to protect this intellectual property in order to strengthen the restaurant brand and help to avert competitors.

  1. Names: It is recommended to consider names that won’t be difficult to protect. For instance, naming a restaurant after a family name will be difficult as chances are it already exists, however an arbitrary yet distinctive name with unspecified value will be easier to trademark; a little trademark research could come in handy. For local restaurants it is advisable to choose names that do not resemble those of competitors in the slightest, and for nationwide restaurant chains it is important to note that a strong trademark with a federal registration is obligatory.
  2. Menus:  Signature dishes should come with creative signature names as well. Opt for special names rather than non-specific descriptives.  Unique names can be protected as trademarks and help to build value for the restaurant. If the restaurant menu incorporates  illustrations, images, or photographs in a creative manner, these elements can also be protected and trademarked. By doing so, if a restaurant owner stumbles upon another restaurant that has copied the menu layout or names, he or she can use copyright law to stop the infringement.
  3. Recipes: Just as non-disclosures and non-competes are included in employee contracts, the actual restaurant recipes should also be protected. Not having protected recipes could result in the loss of a trade secret. Patent protection for unique and distinctive recipes is also highly recommended.
  4. Back-of-house: Many QSR have patented their methods of doing business such as their assembly lines for food preparation and even food-frying methods! .
  5. Take-home items: Signature products that are sold in restaurants  such as coffee, preserves, spices or condiments, apparel and dish ware for in-home use should seek trademark protection .  in expanded classes of goods as you are extending your brand beyond the confines of the restaurant.
  6. Décor:  Restaurant floor plans, layout and interior/exterior décor can be protected so long as it’s unique. Certain common layout/décor combinations cannot be protected, such as chianti bottled candles and red and white checkered linens in Italian restaurants, but if an operator consistently employs the same combination of unique and distinctive elements it can be protected.
  7. Websites and social media: Web pages can be protected under copyright law, as can it’s content such as the photographs and layout arrangements. Social media outlets should be consistent with themes similar to the website. The thing to look out for in the web sphere is to ensure that the content is not in violation of advertising laws as this can actually weaken the owner’s intellectual property.

The NRA has provided this helpful information to help out whether you are starting a new restaurant, opening a second location, or developing a franchise. Using intellectual property law to set your brand apart from others in an industry that is so competitive is a smart move. To read more about these seven steps, click here


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