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I receive this question a lot so I thought I'd answer it here in case you have it.

The answer is: you cannot claim copyright ownership to the listing of ingredients in a recipe.

However, you can claim copyright ownership to the information, photos and instructions surrounding that recipe.

For example, if the sugar scrub recipe you post to your website calls for 1 cup of sugar, 8 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon of lemon essential oil, you cannot claim copyright ownership to that recipe.

But if the sugar scrub recipe you post to your website calls for 1 cup of sugar, 8 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon of lemon essential oil, *and* it also includes specific instructions for how to mix the ingredients and in what order, plus maybe photographs of you whipping everything up, then you can claim copyright ownership to that entire work of authorship.

The copyright office calls this "substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions."

So, the recipe itself cannot be copyrighted, but when the recipe is combined with "substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions," it can be.

You can read more about copyrighting recipes at the United States C...

Question: Is this explanation helpful? If you have experience in this area, please feel free to share.

Tags: copyright, recipes

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Thanks for this helpful information! I researched this back when I started my business and it can get confusing when you don't understand all the terminology.

Warm Regards,
Christine White-Stanton
940-239-7538
Scandle, LLC "A Candle Never Felt So Good"
www.scandlecandle.com

*Winner The Best of Best Spa Tools & Accessories 2008- Skin, Inc. Magazine
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dM,

Thank you so much for this article. I was just had a discussion on this subject with a client of mine yesterday and this just reiterates and reconfirms what I was explaining to her.

Love and blessings,
Tyrika
This is definitely helpful! Thanks so much!
Great information that I never knew I needed :)
I remember this was a hot topic at the Business Boot Camp you did at The Nova Studio last year.

It was relieved to know that although my fabulous recipes are not copyright-able by themselves, they are protected by law within my detailed class handouts which contain "substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions."

Thanks for making this clear to everyone!
Sorry, but dM's info here isn't quite right.

You can't copyright information, period. You can copyright its expression, so that if you had a particularly entertaining, etc. way of writing a recipe, its exact text and close paraphrases could be protected the same way ordinary poetry, etc. would be. But useful information is specifically not supposed to be protected by copyright, so that if it ever came to an infringement suit over a paraphrasing of a recipe, the fact that there are only so many ways to convey the same info would be taken into acc't by the court, so that closer copying would be allowed of it than of ordinary literary works. The photos of you would be copyrightable because they're inessential to the information, but if it were important to explain the process to include a diagram, then the substance of the diagram would not be copyrightable.

There are two ways to protect the substance of a recipe (including ingredients and methods): as a trade secret (which of course must be just that, secret) and by a utility patent. The reference to "literary expression" is meant to cover basically the entertainment value of a cookbook.

dM,

What about the way a product is delivered?  For example if I take a simple oil serum formulation and use it in a non-conventional way of applying it to the skin.

Thanks!

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