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I have a question... A friend of mine has concocted an all natural cream that he sells to folks he knows in Tennessee. He would like to be able to get it to market but since it is all natural, he cannot patent it and would like to prevent people from copying his formula. Would you have any information or suggestions I could pass along? Here is what he said to me:

"I've developed a cream that does all kinds of good things for skin. It fades stretch marks and scars, rapidly. It's an antibiotic/antiseptic. It helps the body rapidly heal scratches, cuts, burns, etc. It moisturizes. It reduces the fine lines of aging. It fades "liver spots". About half the women at my doctor's offices have bought it, a couple have even reordered. But, it's all natural, so I can't patent it, and without a patent I can't protect it, particularly if I follow ingredient packaging laws. Should I just give it to the world, or keep selling piddling amounts, here and there?"

Thanks for any help you may have to offer. :c)

All the best,
Shaunna Malles

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Hi Shaunna,

Thanks for posting your question for your friend.

The first thing to make sure he knows is that the FDA regulates skin cream and that, unless his product is first approved by FDA as a drug, he cannot make any claims on the label that it will heal anything. Those are drug claims and they require FDA approval.

You do not need a patent to protect your ability to make money successfully on a product. If you have a quality cream to offer (ditch the drug claims, unless you obtain drug approval), then you can set up a company, create a brand and start selling it to the people who want it.

You don't need a proprietary formula to make money on a skin cream. If you did, about a billion cosmetics companies would go out of business yesterday. Plenty of companies make money on cosmetics that can be perfectly duplicated. The value is not so much in the formula as it is in the brand.

Protect the brand and even if someone duplicates the formula, it won't matter because they cannot duplicate your brand.

I know others may have some comments for you and I look forward to them.

Hope this helps your friend!


Thanks so much! I appreciate you taking the time to reply, and hope others may have some insights, as well. :c)

I think the FDA approval process is out of the question, at least at this point. So, really, you're saying he should be able to get it out there, following proper labeling requirements, and focus on building the brand around the product rather than allowing the recipe of the product be the focus?

Hi Shauna,

I agree with Donna Maria. I have learned over the years that it really is about your brand and what you bring to the table. Many people make recipes they find online and resell it as if it were their own. The truth is, your friend knows exactly what is in the product, how many ozs of this how many ozs of that..You get me? It is important for him to protect his image, his brand, his product in a way that brings him success. Good luck!


These are all great points made by dM, with just one little addition.  Anyone with a chemical engineering degree can take any formula and reverse engineer it...so as you can see, there really isn't a formula out there that can't be copied with today's sophisticated technology....it's expensive, but it can be done.  So the focus shouldn't be on worrying about thieves. 

Like others have said build the brand and make sure there are no illegal claims made toward healing or curing something without the proper FDA approved clinical trials.


Hi Shaunna. Since we are required to show the world what the ingredients are in our products...we are never going to be able to protect it. That being said...anyone can know your friend's ingredients, but they have no idea the gram or ounce of each ingredient added, so they really do not have the "recipe". There is always reverse formulation. I think a formulator has an automatic copyright, once the recipe is expressed in writing/print. A company can put those ingredients together, but I don't think it can be the same formula. Good luck to your friend.

What I wrote was choppy. Just to clarify...Copyright for the recipe in writing. As for creating the recipe, I don't think they can use the exact same formula in their products, if they happen to reverse engineer it.

Thanks, ladies! Lots of great points there. I really appreciate your insights here. :c)

All of this is really new to me, and I appreciate what I'm learning along the way to help him decide what to do with this. 

All the best,


Just one more quick point... the formulation could also be considered a trade secret, as long as your friend treats it as such (meaning using reasonable means to protect the formula).

Totally agree with dM. Very well said. You can't protect your formula in terms of listing all the ingredients, but really the % is all that matters. But that is that nobody knows. You can't patent it either. You would be wasting your money.  Anyone who obtains the formula can add 0.01% of water and call it their own formula. Even though nobody would notice a difference.

This is why private labeling is so popular these days. You don't really sell the formula, you sell your brand, your face, your customer service and ultimately your reputation in the marketplace.

This type of prvate labeling is very popular with sunscreens. It is VERY expensive to get a formula aproved with the FDA. Yet a lot of labs tweak the formua to customize it for various companies, who sell it as their own.

It's all about your own face forward!!

Sorry for not replying sooner; I've been so busy I've hardly been at the computer in a few weeks! 

Thanks to all who have taken the time to offer your thoughts here. I really appreciate it! As it turns out, my friend doesn't have the time that would be required to really launch this as a product and has given me the recipe to give it a shot. I'm really excited about giving this a go! And will likely be spending quite a bit of time here, learning as much as I can. :)


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