With the Class of 2018 entering the Great British Bake Off® tent next week set to be baking a wide variety of unique and tasty creations, we ask — can you protect your cakes and recipes with patents?

How easy is it to patent a cake or recipe?

A cake is a chemical composition.

A recipe is a method of making a chemical composition.

Chemical compositions, and methods of making them, are patentable within Europe. Like all other inventions, they're assessed for being new and involving an inventive step.

A significant challenge for a baker who wants to patent their creation is demonstrating that it would not have been obvious, to a person skilled in the art of food creation, to try to make it. Substituting one standard ingredient with another standard ingredient is unlikely to be enough.

A baker would need to demonstrate that an unexpected effect on the properties of the resultant foodstuff has been achieved. This may be an improvement in shelf-life, the delivery of a medicinal property, or a reduction in calorie content.

To help show you what I mean, let's look at a few patents that have been granted for baking-related inventions.

Subsiding sponge cakes

The baking of a sponge cake can cause temperatures to rise in the kitchen. A soggy bottom is not the only worry. The phenomenon of 'shrinkage after baking', when the sponge cake becomes concave or bulges in the centre, is also a 'no, no' in patisserie circles. European Patent No. EP2233006 was granted to Meiji Co. Ltd for the invention of a sponge cake made using the fructooligosaccharide: 1-kestose, which minimises the risk of the top of the cake subsiding once it's been removed from the oven. Clever!

Mould-free dough

The high moisture content, high pH and exposure to air during cooling provides perfect conditions for the colonisation of bakery products by mould — which limits the shelf-life of bakes. European Patent No. 2690962 was granted to Caravan Ingredients Inc. for an antimicrobial powder that's used to coat the exterior surface of a dough. The baked product then has an extended, mould-free shelf-life.

Healthy bones

European Patent No. 2338345 was granted to Delavau LLC for the invention of a calcium-fortified baked product. Calcium is an essential nutrient and plays a vital role in bone growth. A deficiency in calcium can lead to rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults. Traditional bread is a poor source of calcium. The inventors found that adding suspensions of calcium carbonate powder within acidic aqueous solutions to dough increases the calcium content of the baked product — and (importantly) it does this without adversely affecting the taste, texture and crumb structure.

Is your bake patentable?

We can help you to identify whether your cake is likely to be a patentable invention, alongside considering other intellectual property rights, such as whether copyright exists in the artistic creation.

We may ask you for a taste of your bake — but only for research purposes, of course...

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.