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Comment: Protecting Formulas

Posted: September 5, 2007

A forthcoming article in the October issue of Perfumer & Flavorist magazine, “Protecting Formulas,” describes the importance of intellectual property (IP) and what steps can be taken to defend it from inappropriate disclosure. But why should it be protected?

The argument has been made that the age of the gas chromatograph (GC) has rendered all formulas as virtual open books. A handful of analytical steps, these advocates say, can be employed in the duplication of flavors and fragrances, so there is little reason for flavor and fragrance companies to deny formula disclosure to interested parties (i.e., importers, customers, government officials, etc.). Not so. 

A GC cannot always elucidate an entire formula. The inclusion of captive ingredients, the application of high-impact materials at low/undetectable levels and the use of ingredients that can be “hidden” behind others are all techniques that defend the integrity of formulas. Formula duplication is a real threat for the flavor and fragrance industry. Without limiting disclosure, companies would have little in the way of uniqueness or value. Of course the industry always seeks to cooperate with customers and regulators while remaining as transparent as possible in the interests of public health and safety. Still, in this context, IP can and should be responsibly protected.

Supply Chain as IP

Also in the October issue, John Cox discusses supply chain issues in the context of recent concerns over Chinese-derived materials. As worries about the origins of ingredients in formulas increase, flavor and fragrance companies must each decide on strategies for reassuring customers, including how much detail to provide.