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Protecting Your Trade Secrets with Co-Packers

Protect your IP from co-packers

In the food industry, your recipes and formulas are your most valuable assets. When working with co-packers—third-party manufacturers who produce your products according to your specifications—it’s crucial to safeguard these trade secrets. Properly managing the sharing of proprietary information can prevent the loss of competitive advantage and ensure the security of your intellectual property. Here, we discuss strategies for protecting your trade secrets when engaging with co-packers.

Understanding the Importance of Trade Secret Protection

Trade secrets include any confidential business information that provides a competitive edge. In the context of food production, this often means recipes, formulas, processes, and proprietary methods. If this information is disclosed or misused, it can severely harm your business. Thus, protecting trade secrets when partnering with co-packers is essential to maintaining your competitive position in the market.

Key Strategies for Safeguarding Trade Secrets

  1. Implement Robust Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)An NDA is a legal contract that ensures confidential information shared between parties is not disclosed to unauthorized entities. When working with a co-packer, it’s vital to have a comprehensive NDA in place before sharing any proprietary information. The NDA should:
    • Clearly define what constitutes confidential information.
    • Specify the obligations of the co-packer regarding the protection and use of this information.
    • Outline the duration of confidentiality, including after the termination of the business relationship.
    • Include consequences for breaches of confidentiality, such as financial penalties or legal action.
  2. Clearly Define Intellectual Property OwnershipYour co-packer agreement should explicitly state that all intellectual property, including recipes, formulas, and any modifications or improvements, remains the property of the marketer. This clarity helps prevent disputes over ownership and ensures that any innovations developed during the partnership are rightfully yours.
  3. Limit Access to Trade SecretsNot all employees or departments within the co-packer’s organization need access to your trade secrets. Limit the sharing of proprietary information to only those individuals who are directly involved in the production process. This approach minimizes the risk of unauthorized disclosure or misuse.
  4. Use Non-Compete and Non-Circumvention ClausesNon-compete clauses prevent the co-packer from using your trade secrets to manufacture similar products for your competitors. Non-circumvention clauses prohibit the co-packer from bypassing your business to deal directly with your customers or suppliers. These clauses can be critical in protecting your market position and ensuring that your co-packer does not undermine your business interests.
  5. Regularly Audit and Monitor ComplianceConduct regular audits and inspections of your co-packer’s facilities and processes to ensure compliance with the terms of your agreement, particularly those related to trade secret protection. These audits help identify potential security gaps and reinforce the importance of maintaining confidentiality.
  6. Establish Clear Termination ProtocolsUpon termination of the co-packer agreement, there should be clear protocols for the return or destruction of all confidential information. This ensures that your trade secrets are not retained or used by the co-packer once the business relationship ends.


Protecting your trade secrets when working with co-packers is crucial for maintaining your competitive edge and ensuring the security of your intellectual property. By implementing robust NDAs, defining intellectual property ownership, limiting access, using non-compete and non-circumvention clauses, regularly auditing compliance, and establishing clear termination protocols, you can safeguard your valuable proprietary information.

At Juris Law Group, we specialize in helping food marketers protect their trade secrets through carefully crafted legal agreements. Contact us today for a free consultation and learn how we can assist you in securing your intellectual property in co-packer partnerships.

For more information or assistance with protecting your trade secrets in co-packer agreements, reach out to Juris Law Group, your trusted partner in food law.