Food and Intellectual Property Law

    ''[Humans] don't just survive; they discover; they create. ...

     I mean, just look at what they do with food!''


    Food is essential and inseparable part of our lives. Although it is still based on nutrition, food today has a much broader meaning than just nourishment. The protection of the interests of food producers, creators, and businesses, as well as consumer access to accurate and trustworthy information about the food products they buy, are becoming more and more crucial as the food industry expands. This situation requires us to address a food economy, an industry built on food. This is where intellectual property law steps in.

    With the instruments such as trademarks, patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and geographical indications, IP Law plays an essential role in shaping the food industry. It provides a framework for ensuring the rights of food producers and creators and ensures that consumers are not misled or deceived by false or inaccurate information regarding the food they consume.

    In this article, I will show the relationship between food and intellectual property law in general, including the different types of intellectual property protection relevant to the food industry. In addition to this, I will briefly show examples from Turkish Law.

    Trademarks: Brands and logos used on food products can be protected as trademarks, giving companies exclusive rights to their use and preventing others from using similar marks that may cause confusion among consumers.

    Patents: Some food products or food preparation methods may be eligible for patent protection, allowing the inventor exclusive rights to use or license the invention for a limited period. Patents are regulated by Turkish Patent and Trademark Office (TURKPATENT) based on Industrial Property Law in Turkey. Patents are granted for inventions that have a technical aspect. An invention is an idea that solves a technical problem and is novel. In this respect, it should be noted that a patent may not be granted directly to the food itself. However, it may be possible to give a patent for a technique for food. 

    Copyrights: Recipes, cookbooks, and food-related multimedia content may be protected by copyright law, giving creators exclusive rights to their use and distribution. 

    Copyrights are protected under the Turkish Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works. The concept of work is defined in Article 1/B of the Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works as ''Any intellectual or artistic product bearing the characteristic of its author, which is deemed a scientific and literary or musical work or work of fine arts or cinematographic work.''

    For an intellectual product to qualify as a work, several conditions must coexist: i) i) There is an intellectual production, ii) This production takes the form (objective condition), iii) The product is included in one of the enumerated types of works (formal condition), and iv) Bear the characteristics of the owner (subjective condition).

    The groups of works in the Law are determined by adopting the principle of numerus clausus (limited number). This means that "Works" are limited to the types specified in the Law, and no new varieties can be created outside of these. The intellectual productions considered as works under the Law are as follows: 1) works of science and literature, 2) musical works, 3) fine art, and 4) cinematographic works.

    In this respect, there is no doubt that "recipes" that meet the specified conditions will benefit from the protection afforded by copyright law.

    Trade Secrets: Certain food product formulas and recipes may be protected as trade secrets, enabling businesses to maintain the privacy of these confidential aspects of their operations. The Turkish Commercial Code covers trade secrets. In the context of the Turkish Commercial Code, a secret is a fact of economic life that is known by a limited scope, that cannot be quickly learned by others, that the enterprise has a legitimate interest in keeping secret, and that the enterprise wishes to keep secret.

    Geographical Indications: Geographical indication indicates a product identified with the region, area, region or country of origin in terms of distinctive quality, reputation or other characteristics. Certain foods and drinks, such as baklava, maraş ice cream, and Rize tea, are protected by geographical indication laws that restrict the name to products made in specific regions with unique characteristics. In this respect, although there will be protection for the product, this protection is provided by taking into account the "geographical" elements of the food rather than the food itself. For example, fusion cuisine products that combine different cuisines, regions or localities will not be protected within this scope. 


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