Can I Copyright a Recipe?

You have just created the next big thing – a tantalising apple strudel recipe to rival Colonel Sander’s Secret 11 Herbs and Spices Recipe and McDonald’s Big Mac Sauce. This has the potential to propel you into the upper echelons of the culinary realm, on par with Jamie Oliver, Neil Perry and Gordon Ramsay. You wish to stock your creation alongside the popular cronuts and bagels of your patisserie. However, how can you protect your secret recipe from your competitors? Can you copyright your secret recipe?

If you are looking to protect your secret recipes or have a unique method of cooking, LawPath can connect you with an experienced IP Attorney.

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Can I Copyright a Recipe?

What is Protected by Copyright?

Any recipe written down with your own descriptions and instructions can be classified as a “literary work”. Under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) a literary work can be protected by copyright. Although the quantities of ingredients may be unoriginal, if you publish a recipe online, the post can be protected and you would own the copyright given it had not been written as part of your employment. As the owner, your permission is required for anyone who wants to reproduce the written recipe.

Recipes recorded in the form of a video or audio clip and any supplementary photos or illustrations are also protected by copyright. As such, recipes from cooking channels like Simple Cooking Channel cannot be used without their permission. However, a legal loophole exists where a person will be found to be not infringing the copyright of a recipe if they put the instructions in their own words, even if the ingredients and process are the same.

What isn’t Protected by Copyright?

Unfortunately, while the Copyright Act protects specific instructions which are recorded under the classification of “literary work”, both the ingredients and methods are not protected by copyright.

Ingredients are deemed to be factual and hence do not attract copyright on their own. There are no laws stopping others utilising the same method (roasting and frying). As such, people can copy the essential elements of these recipes and post them online without obtaining permission from the original author.

How long does Copyright last?

In Australia, the general rule is that copyright lasts from the time the material is created until 70 years after the death of the author. However, if the work was published before 1955 and the creator died before 1955, the copyright will have expired. This means that any old cookbook from the 1800s will no longer be copyright protected.


If you are stewing about whether your secret recipe is copyrighted, make sure you write out your recipe. This will mean that although you cannot protect information about the ingredients or cooking methods, competitors can’t photocopy and distribute your recipe. Nevertheless, your followers do not need permission to follow the recipe in store. Finally, you cannot stop others from recording the ingredients and method after watching you make your apple strudel!

To find out more about the best ways to protect your secret recipes or unique cooking methods contact an copyright lawyer.

LawPath has access to highly qualified IP attorneys that can help protect your design. Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800LAWPATH for advice and obtain a fixed-fee quote from our network of 600+ expert lawyers or to get answers to your legal questions.

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