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Who owns the Recipes PLEASE HELP

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  • #16
    I have to say, as much as my English major background makes me an Intellectual property hawk, your hourly wage over time should be deducted from the total amount you are owed for the brewery selling "your" beers. After all, nobody was paying you to homebrew when you developed the recipe. If you get paid to brew your recipe in a commercial brewery, that's great, but if you also want to be compensated for creating the recipe in the first place, then the time you've been paid for brewing it commercially to date should be deducted from that amount. I'm a founder/head brewer, so I'm pretty sure I didn't get into this to screw brewers who are creative enough to come up with a quality recipe. I'm just saying, you're getting paid to do the shit--many truly gifted brewers don't get anything for their efforts (because they are homebrewing only). If you have the opportunity to brew beer for commercial consumption, kudos. But realize that the difference between an award-winning IPA and an almost award-winning one is often a matter of ounces of the same ingredients. If you have a good relationship with the owner and you aren't already a part-owner of your brewery (it is your brewery, right? Not just a job?) then ask for equity in the company, but at twice the value the owner is offering in cash. Unless they are trying to buy you out, they will probably be more than willing to legally acquire the recipes and a talented partner/brewer at the same time.

    Patrick S. McGinnity
    Whiskey Point Brewing Company
    Beaver Island, MI


    • #17
      I think Dave said it best early on. If you're the founding head brewer/whatever you may have to do there outside of the scope a head brewer of numerous other brewers and employees, you should approach the owner about having some equity stake in the company since it sounds like you're pretty dedicated and a major part of what makes the brewery what it is. Some owners of companies don't like giving into the idea that they aren't the reason the Earth revolves around the Sun and think they deserve every last penny of profit because they had or could raise capital, and had the plan to start the company. A LOT goes into that, but it doesn't mean jack without everyone else unless they are a sole proprietary. Some my scream socialist commie for remotely suggesting this, but to me, it's being a decent human being. I'm the head brewer/operations manager/just about everything else at the moment for a brewery I'm helping start. The owners approached me from day one with factoring me into ownership and profit sharing, one because that creates greater mental and physical investment from me, especially more long term, but it's also because I had industry experience, they had none.

      Now just because it doesn't sound like you had industry experience before this, doesn't mean you should be treated like a day laborer with no emotional attachment. It does mean generally that you'll have to earn a stake over longer with less initial return. The key is think a lot about what you want out of working here, where you want it to go, and what it means to you. If you see/want a long-term future here, then write out everything you want and expect, reason and unreasonable, talk it over with those that do own the place, and see where it goes. Make sure it's a written agreement and it's reviewed regularly.

      Recipes are a dime a dozen, generally speaking. Even the best recipe can yield awful beer, and the worst recipe can yield decent beer; it all comes down to implementation, brewing practices, equipment and ingredients. The head brewer has a lot to do with that. Your issue isn't too much about the recipes as it is you and your overall contribution. Even if you nail a beer on the first batch and subsequent recipe, things WILL change. Whether you tweak the recipe ever so slightly each batch for 30 years or not, ingredients, process, equipment, people and weather will change at some point and in some way. You can treat a recipe like a huge corporation like Coca Cola will often do, it being under lock and key, and like it's a holy document or deity, but for the most part, that's not how it works in beer.

      The owner shouldn't be paying for recipes; he should be paying for an implementer of recipes. Should it just be compensation for past time and work it, or for what you could, and hopefully do, bring to the table? I was not paid a dime for anything one specific thing I brought with me, but I was/am/will be paid and rewarded for what I bring to the table/what I do bring to the table/what I will bring to the table. I get to build and run my own brewery with someone else's money; my only investment is knowledge, ambition, creativity, sweat and time. My monetary compensation grows as these pay off for the brewery. Now don't get me wrong; my compensation isn't peanuts for doing this, but the work schedule for this and my position involve work/involvement every single day from me. I live and breathe beer and brewing, so a lot of this is my own design. The owners are very generous people and believe in paying their people appropriately though. Will my first assistant brewer -- likely someone with no professional given our location -- get anywhere near what I do? Nope. But they won't have to put in the time or effort that I do, and they will get paid OJT. But if they learn fast, have the passion and do great work, including developing and brewing great beer, believe me that they'll sure get compensated more--if that has to come from my profit share, then by gum it will.

      Hope that helps and best of luck!

      "Be no slave to a rich man, especially if you make the man rich."


      • #18
        Reading through this thread, another thought struck me: would we be making the same arguments if the OP was running the packaging line and designed the label artwork used on that packaging? Wouldn't we all expect that artist to be paid for that artwork while at the same time, they should be paid for the labor of labeling also.
        Now having said that, I designed my brewery's labels and I written all the recipes, most on my own time. But, I have not been compensated for either, just my wage. Although I do retain the trademarks, for what their worth.

        I've always felt if the recipe creation preceded employment, the brewery should pay for their use. After employment, the brewery should give the brewer some sort of one time "atta boy". True, recipes are a dime a dozen but the same can be said for label designs. However, they both have value that needs to be recognized.

        Glacier Brewing Company

        "who said what now?"


        • #19
          I'm in agreement with RipRap. If you brought your recipes to the table when you were hired and negotiated a price for them at the point of your hiring then you get something for them. Hind sight is not worth much. Sounds like your owner is being kind offering you anything for them. If you had to adjust your recipes in any way once you started being on the big system the recipes become a result of your work. Any brewer worth their salt that comes behind you should easily be able to reverse engineer your recipes, or as has been said slightly modify them and call them company recipes. In my humble opinion. I have been paid between $500-$1500 for contract recipes.
          Joel Halbleib
          Partner / Zymurgist
          Hive and Barrel Meadery
          6302 Old La Grange Rd
          Crestwood, KY


          • #20
            Originally posted by BrewinLou View Post
            I'm in agreement with RipRap. If you brought your recipes to the table when you were hired and negotiated a price for them at the point of your hiring then you get something for them. Hind sight is not worth much. Sounds like your owner is being kind offering you anything for them. If you had to adjust your recipes in any way once you started being on the big system the recipes become a result of your work. Any brewer worth their salt that comes behind you should easily be able to reverse engineer your recipes, or as has been said slightly modify them and call them company recipes. In my humble opinion. I have been paid between $500-$1500 for contract recipes.

            I am sure your homebrew recipes were in fact different, scaled for a 5 gallon batch vs the brewery size. When you were brought on, you likely scaled them for production, making them new recipes. I am all for credit where it is due, however you are lucky to have him offer something. Take the $500, its basically there to ease his mind for your hard work. Anything less is likely to cause animosity over time and destroy your working relationship. If you create the recipes for contract (like BrewinLou) then it should be pre-arranged.

            Most of us "work at will" in the states and you have an ability to leave just like they have an ability to let you go. If your compensation doesn't match your value, shop your skills elsewhere or fit your efforts to match. (not saying you feel that way) If your boss really likes the work you do and sees value in you, they will do as much as possible to keep you happy. As a few have said, add a pound and boom - new recipe! Brew it somewhere else.

            With all that said, I have left probably close to 50 different recipes at my last positions with no "extra" compensation. Some were my original homebrew, some made on the clock. Bottom line, I evolve my skills and thinking each time and personally don't care to brew the "one killer recipe" at the next place. They each have a different customer base, and culture so I modify to that. Also, I don't put near as much faith into the recipes as process. "You want one of my great recipes - here - good luck making it taste the same" is my attitude.

            Maybe you can convince him to send you on a vacation or something instead - then at least you don't have to pay the taxes on the extra income!


            • #21
              Originally posted by UnFermentable View Post

              Also, I don't put near as much faith into the recipes as process. "You want one of my great recipes - here - good luck making it taste the same" is my attitude.
              this. so much this.


              • #22
                Just my non legal, personal opinion, recipes are worthless. Unless you have access to a proprietary hop or some exclusive process you have developed, it's all open sourced supplies and common knowledge procedures. The value comes from the branding. I'd care much more about retaining the rights to use the name of a beer or sell that for value than I'd care about using a specific caramalt.


                • #23
                  I have a NEIPA that is as good as any beer on the market and I really believe with the right marketing and distribution this beer could make the owner A LOT LOT LOT of money.

                  Lots of good responses. My two cents is that recipes are a dime a dozen and are in the end trumped by process and technique. As for making a lot of money on one, you say with the right marketing and distribution, etc. Boy ain't that the truth. That is no small feat by any stretch, IMO. Making a lot of money distributing any beer in this crowded market seems really, really challenging. I thank my stars every day that I sell 90% of my beer through my crowded brewpub/restaurant's taps. Not saying new entries can't do it, but it would take some really solid marketing capital/expertise, IMO.
                  Dave Cowie
                  Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Company
                  Nevada City, CA


                  • #24
                    One of my expectation for a head brewer is recipe development. That's part of the job. If they scale up their favorite home brew recipe and it's good then we'll brew it. In my mind that recipe is now property of the brewery, and if you asked me for the recipe I'll give you the malt bill and ratios, hop profile and schedule and mash schedule.
                    Most of us have come up with great (my mom told me so) recipes and most of us learned how to develop a recipe by brewing someone else's to start. Just think of the residuals Charlie Papazian could be making from all of us.

                    Sent from my SM-N900V using Tapatalk
                    Eric Brandjes
                    Cole Street Brewery
                    Enumclaw, WA


                    • #25
                      Thanks for all the replies guys. Like I said myself and the owner have a very good relationship, neither of us really put much thought into the original question I asked, it just came up in conversation. With us both being new at all this I thought what better place to ask the question than here.
                      Head Brewer
                      Chattabrewchee Southern Brewhouse
                      West Point GA


                      • #26
                        Presumably these recipes had to be adjusted for scale, in which case that would have been done on company time, so the original home-brew recipes aren't necessarily the baseline for ownership. If the brewery owner is offering you $, that is above and beyond what he has to do, and I would graciously accept. If you are being required to sign something that says you will not brew those recipes for anyone else, then I would make sure the recipes specified which ingredients came from which supplier and make that a defined part of the recipe. If you then wanted to make that beer elsewhere, it would only require minor tweaks and/or change of raw material supplier to make it a different recipe.

                        I have never seen a need for recipe ownership myself, quite a few breweries use recipes that brewers learned elsewhere, even to the point of neighboring breweries using the same recipe... and the beers are still different. The end product is more than a few numbers and ingredients written down on a page.


                        • #27
                          I'd take the $500. Recipes don't matter. What matters is cleanliness, documentation of protocol and attention to detail. You could give me all of your recipes right now, I'd reciprocate, and neither of us would make the same beers as the other with the same ingredients. There are too many process variations from place to place.


                          • #28
                            I am not a lawyer, I am not offering any legal advice, but here is my two cents:

                            It would appear to me that you were hired in part to develop recipes as part of the job. Where you chose to draw inspiration from for those recipes, whether it is from previous homebrew experience, or elsewhere, was a personal decision. There was no mandate by the owner requiring you to use your own personal recipes when developing these so what you chose to come up with (in my opinion) belongs to the brewery. New recipes could have been developed, but as the person in charge of designing them you chose to use what you were comfortable with. I am not trying to be harsh, I am just trying to say the choice in using those recipes sounds like a decision you made, not the owner, so I would consider you “on the clock”. The fact that the owner is attempting to compensate you and acknowledges your effort should be recognized.

                            Beyond that, the recipe is not necessarily the asset, it’s the branding. Recipes change all the time, as well as process for particular brands. The brewery, I would imagine, retains rights to the branding and much of that dismisses any potential claim to the trade rights. You could walk away and the branding will remain with the brewery.

                            Long story short, it sounds to me like you have an awesome owner who is willing to compensate you above and beyond your hired role. I would continue developing recipes and kicking ass. Nothing you are developing, or have developed or learned along the way becomes unavailable to you beyond your current role. If you end up branching out on your own, use your knowledge, develop your own branding and apply your knowledge of recipe building to living the dream. I cannot imagine a scenario where your current brewery would come after you for utilizing your own recipe and knowledge so long as you don’t infringe on their branding.


                            • #29
                              Cannot trademark or patent recipes

                              Echoing what others have said but putting a legal stamp on it. Recipes cannot be trademarked only the end result in regards to uniqueness and presentation ie branding can be.

                              From a legal source

                              "Food is Patentable as a Composition. Under U.S. Patent law, an inventor can patent a process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter. The food must be new, useful, not obvious, and meet the other disclosure requirements for patentability. However, the critical point remains the same: Food can be patented."

                              If you are being offered monies for them and then in signing a noncompete it may become a legal issue but otherwise there is no intellectual property there.