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Blog | Four tips for patenting in the food industry | EP&C

Four tips for patenting in the food industryDo you remember R.C. Cola? Chances are that this name does not ring a bell. In 1958 R.C. Cola was the first soft drinks manufacturer to develop a diet cola. However, it did not bring them a great deal of fame. The manufacturer failed to patent the cola and was soon overtaken by major manufacturers like Pepsi and Coca Cola. The food industry still invests relatively little in protecting its innovations. It is a missed opportunity if you ask me. In this blog, I will give you four tips to bear in mind when considering patenting in the food industry.

Tip 1: Is my innovation a fad or is it here to stay?

R.C. Cola were sitting on a gold mine with diet cola. The drink turned out not to be a fad but a product that has been on the market ever since. Talk to your R&D Department, for example, or with marketing experts and do a trend analysis. This will give you a better idea of the latest market trends and what consumers want.

Next, figure out whether your innovation has a chance of gaining a foothold in the market. For example, because it responds to a change in lifestyle. Such as diet cola which responds to our awareness of it being healthier to reduce our sugar intake.

A patent application is a process that takes several years, but if your innovation is likely to have a place in the market for a longer period of time, it is definitely worth the effort. By doing so you protect your innovation against counterfeiting and gain a stronger market position.

Tip 2: Change your protection strategy along with your developments.

At EP&C we are noticing that food companies are reluctant to patent their innovations. They rely mainly on marketing and trademark protection. Compared to other sectors, the food industry is at the bottom of the list when it comes to patents. About 0.65 patents per 1000 employees, whereas in the pharmaceutical industry, for example, there are 75 patents per 1000 employees.

This is strange for two reasons:
1. There is a lot of competition in the food industry.
2. A great deal of innovation takes place in this sector.

Whereas originally the classic technology of mixing and stirring prevailed, there are now innovative technologies, improved production processes and newly discovered health effects. These developments make patents increasingly important in the food industry.

So when you innovate you should also change your protection strategy. Make establishing patents part of your innovation process. It is tempting to focus purely on your new product or technology, but you should not forget about patenting. If you have any doubts as to whether or not to protect your innovation, you should seek advice from a patent attorney with expertise in your particular sector.

Tip 3: Do not be too quick to think that an innovation cannot be patented.

Eben Freeman, the inventor of smoked coca cola once said: "In no other creative business can you so easily identify money attached to your creative property. Yet we have less protection than anywhere else." Protecting new innovations is crucial to making the most of them. It is often wrongly assumed that patenting is not possible in the food industry.

Yet there are countless examples of patents that have turned out well. The Bolletje rusk with the famous nick. Or the popping candy and popping chocolate patented by General Foods back in 1959. And who doesn't know about Tiger nuts made by Duyvis? When innovating, you should not just focus on a new product alone, but also on things like a new kind of packaging that can influence buying behaviour, improved shelf life, a new production process or a combination of ingredients with unexpected synergies.

Tip 4: Align the innovation with your business strategy.

Science and technology are becoming increasingly important in the food industry. Competition is fierce and everyone keeps a close eye on each other. The line between inspiring and copying can sometimes become blurred. Patenting is an important instrument to prevent this. You should always align the innovation with your business strategy. Does the development add something to your core business? What is the added value of a patent? Or would it be better to keep it secret, like Coca Cola is allegedly doing with its recipe? A patent attorney with expertise in the food industry can help you answer these questions.

If you would like advice on a patent application, please do not hesitate to contact me. I would be pleased to help. You can also chat with me or one of my colleagues on working days between 2pm and 5pm. The chat function will open automatically when you go to We are there to answer your questions.