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Beyond Meat – Patent vs. Trade Secret

Beyond Meat, a food company founded on plant-based meat-substitute products recently went public and unveiled the “Beyond Burger,” rumored to taste and even “bleed” similar to a traditional meat-based burger. Since Beyond Meat’s IPO on May 2, 2019, the stock has risen over 500% as of the time of this writing.

Beyond Meat holds a patent for plant-based meat structured protein products. Specifically, food products having structures, textures, and other properties similar to those of animal meat. When a company files for a patent, it must disclose some of the subject matter and details to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), making those elements available to the public. However, with the growth of the Internet and global connectivity over the past few decades, the ability to circumvent or reverse-engineer patents has increased exponentially.

Why did Beyond Meats opt to file for a patent when they could have instead chosen to keep their “recipe” a trade secret, similar to the Coca-Cola formulation? Because with trade secrets, the risk of the secret getting out and having little recourse to “put the genie back in the bottle” is very real. They can also be very costly to control, requiring honest employees and strict protocols to ensure secrecy. The choice to file a patent releases far more information about your product or methodology when compared to a trade secret, but provides greater protection against infringement.

The future for Beyond Meat remains uncertain; however, expect more competition to enter the market within the next few years as companies and independent inventors dissect Beyond Meat’s public patent and try various forms of their own recipes.