Among the many keys to success in the restaurant business is differentiating yourself from your competition. That means not just having good food and the right ambiance for the customers you want to attract. It means protecting the things that make your restaurant(s) unique. Much of that can be protected under intellectual property (IP) laws.
A restaurant's IP can include its recipes (sometimes protected as trade secrets), the names of various items on its menu (which can be trademarked) and its name, logo and other identifiers that are associated with it.
When you open a restaurant, you need to determine what aspects of your business's IP you want to take the time, money and effort to protect. Even if you decide not to trademark your name immediately, you should make sure that no other food service provider has already applied for or received a trademark for it. You can do this by searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).
Even if you don't choose to protect any of your recipes with the USPTO, you still want to take steps to prevent them from getting out. Requiring employees to sign nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) can help. These can also give you legal recourse if anyone was to disclose your recipes or other confidential information.
As your business grows and becomes more successful, you may want to take additional steps to protect your IP. Any business's IP will change over time. That's particularly true in the restaurant business. If one of your signature dishes becomes extremely popular, for example, you may want to trademark it.
Intellectual property law can be extremely complicated. That's why it's essential to talk with an experienced IP attorney. They can help you take the necessary steps to protect your IP. They can also help you take legal actions against those who steal or misuse it.