Original Recipe Vs. Original Design

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Redglade

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I have a loose plan to start selling soap in a little over a year, doing enough reading right now that I'm actually dreaming about making soap. For awhile I've been stressing about making my own original recipe, didn't want to steal anyone's idea, but is that even possible? There are a ton of variations out there, but chances are any recipe I stick with is going to most likely be similar to someone else's. So it seems to me now that the major concern is copying someone else's design, especially when you get into the more elaborate soaps with themes and specific colors and the like. I'm not even watching as many videos as I was, thinking that I might reproduce a soap that I saw without even realizing it! So, I suppose my question is what do you think I need to be concerned about the most, the recipe or the design? Both? Or am I stressing out a bit too much over it?
 

Carly B

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My vote is you're stressing too much over it. If you were trying to duplicate another soap to the letter---oils, colors, design, fragrance, name, etc., that's one thing. And even then, given the whimsical nature of soapmaking, chances of you making something identical to someone else, or even identical to the last batch you made, is far from certain.

So don't stress about it and have fun experimenting. I've been doing CP almost two years, and there's only one recipe I've made more than once (due to requests of friends and family). I've made it four times, and it turned out at least 3 different ways. But they were all good.....
 

SoapDaddy70

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Definitely unneeded stress. As far as I know there are no patents or intellectual property issues in soapmaking. Especially in the US. In the UK they need to have recipes assessed so "stealing" someones recipe might be an issue in the UK but here in the U.S. I wouldn't worry about it. No matter how hard you tried, the odds of you making the same exact recipe as someone else is virtually impossible. Even if someone gave you their recipe there would still be no legal ramifications of you selling soap with the same recipe. In terms of designs, same deal, as far as I know even if someone "invented" a certain design does not mean other people can't sell or make soap using the same design elements. Like Carly said you can use the same technique 5x in a row and still end up with 5 different looking batches of soap. I would not even let the stress of worrying about selling bother you at this point. Enjoy the learning process and don't fret about this kind of stuff. Experiment to your hearts content, take copious notes and try to learn at least one small thing from every batch.
 

jcandleattic

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Agreed with the others. Even if you think you are inventing something new in soaping, chances are someone somewhere has done it before. Relax, have fun. Make what you want and if it's eerily similar to someone else's, well that's just how it goes. As someone mentioned, if you are not purposely trying to duplicate an exact replica, no harm no foul.
 

MGM

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Agree with the others...I think that if you intentionally stole a recipe, a scent/design combo, and a name, and then also marketed it as your own original idea, then people might get up in arms, but other than that, you're probably good.
@Carly B has given you something more likely to worry about....once you settle on what you're selling, how do you consistently replicate it time after time? I agree that I can do EXACTLY the same thing with the same recipe and have a very different result. Soap-making is NOT like baking, that's for sure.
 

earlene

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Your biggest concern will be packaging. In the US, soapmakers who sell soap that is packaged in such a way that customers might confuse brands IS an issue. It has happened. Also your business name has to be unique for the same reason. Soapmakers here (SMF) and elsewhere have received cease & desist letters from attorneys over such things.

So when you decide on a business name, do the research to make sure you aren't calling youself the same or too close to another soapmaking business, big or small. And get that name protected (registered with your state.)

And proper labeling will be your other main concern. After you have sufficiently tested your soaps over time.
 

cmzaha

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I totally agree with Earlene. Worry about your Business Name and labeling.

It is almost impossible to copy someone's design. As far as that goes I find it difficult to duplicate my own designs. As for soap recipes, you would not know their percentages even if you used the same ingredients on their labels. Of course, you can make a good guess but it would most likely not be exact. As for copying one of my recipes most folks would not because of my additives, especially new soapmakers. And of course, there is the gray area of not disclosing all ingredients under "trade secrets", so just do not overthink it.
 

earlene

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Definitely unneeded stress. As far as I know there are no patents or intellectual property issues in soapmaking. Especially in the US.

Actually there has been. Once a soapmaker decided to Trademark the words or phrase 'soap loaf' as in loaf of soap. She was not allowed to trademark this rather common description of soap made in a loaf mold. I learned this from an attorney who presented at a soapmaker's seminar I attended a few years back. (link) That's the only situation like that that I recall, but he may have mentioned others, not as memorable.

And I do believe that Sharon Johnson (& her followers) is/are very protective of her SJHP (aka SBHP) method and that in order to buy her e-book or attend her classes, the recipient has to agree never to publish or share specifics about the method. I couldn't find a patent, trademark or copyright for it, but I may not have searched in depth when I looked. Her website is copyrighted, as I assume her book is as well.

She comes from a background working with the courts, so it is no surprise she is protective of her business and livelihood. I would guess with that career background she has excellent contacts & resources to counsel and advise her how to successfully protect herself, her business and her intellectual property.
 

cerelife

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@Redglade, I love that you're so concerned about creating your own original ideas and I applaud you for that!!
As others have said, there really is nothing new under the sun. I know that I have created soaps that I honestly and truly thought were unique only to find something eerily similar from a soapmaker I'd never heard of (who made it before me) - and on the flip side I've had customers send me images of soaps with the same exact name and design as some of my soaps because they were outraged that someone was copying my soap. But I'm sure that they didn't copy my soap and had most likely never heard of my company...we just happened to be on the same wave length!!
My advice would be to work on your recipe first. Because who cares how pretty your soap is if it doesn't feel great and perform well?
Once you have a great recipe that you love and can replicate without any problems, then I would focus on packaging and branding if you intend to sell in the future. THIS you actually do need to put some time and thought into to make sure that it's unique to you/your company and won't be easily confused with any other company.
For me personally, design comes last. If you have a great soap and good branding, a pretty design is just the cherry on top :)
 

Catscankim

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For a bunch of YEARS I thought about writing a recipe book. I'm not a trained cook, and probably don't have anything that I created completely on my own: just cooking that I have done all my life. But, I am a pretty good cook as well as a pretty good writer. I have been published for articles in my profession, and I have written (not so legally) college papers for people for $25 per page..seriously.

Well, I gave up the idea on the recipe book, but in the meantime, I did a little research on what constitutes "proprietary"...and recipes do not count, at least not for food recipes, but I suspect that soap recipes are the same (I welcome corrections).

I have a great recipe for mac and cheese...then I saw a recipe from Martha Stewart saying to use Gruyrere cheese....OOOOH my gosh, game changer. So do I give credit to Martha Stewart for the cheese? Do I say this cheese addition is from her? Or can I just incorporate it into my recipe unnoticed? It hurt my brain.

And like everybody else has said...in the end, there is probably not a recipe that has not already been done. Same as food.

edit: but I will take credit for my Chocolate Habanero Sugar cookies LOL
 

Zany_in_CO

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FWIW, every soap I ever made when I first started soaping was a "Tried & True" recipe from someone else. It's a good way to lay a foundation for what to do and moreso to learn "what NOT to do". After trying a couple of dozen recipes, I got a feel for what pleased me and my skin in a soap. That's when I started tweaking to my heart's content. My shaving soap got 3 "tweaks" in 3 years. My ZNSC took 12 years, off & on, to get to where it is now. Let's face it... we all tweak recipes, even the Tried & True.

If you want your soap to stand out in a crowd, develop a basic soap recipe for your customer base then focus on fragrance. By that I mean, develop a few signature scents that make customers come back for more.

Wishing you the best of luck in achieving your dream! :thumbs:
 

TheGecko

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I remember the first pattern I wrote; Honeycomb Hat. Simple pattern, had it test knitted. Got ready to publish...and discovered that there were already patterns out there for the same kind of hat. I was devastated...I wanted to be original. Talked to a designer friend...she encouraged me to publish it because so long as I created it myself, it was original.

I started soap making with a ‘tried and true’ recipe from someone else. It was just a plain loaf of soap with some stink ’um pretty stuff. As noted by @Zany_in_CO, it provided a foundation and gave me confidence and a ‘control’ as I tried different things.

If you search my post for “Regular Soap”...you’ll find my recipe for it and for my Goat MilkSoap. You’re more than welcomed to use them, forever or as a starting point to build your own foundation.

As for designs...it’s all been done. Just because I sell a Lilac Soap...white with a lavender chop stick swirl, doesn’t mean that you can’t do the same. I’m sure that are tons of similar soap out there.
 

Catscankim

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Girl, I NEED those cookies in my life!!!
I could have sworn that I posted my holiday cookies in the recipes section...I say holiday because they are the cookies I make them every year for a cookie exchange, not that they are "holiday" cookies, just part of my line up lol.

I gotta find my recipe and I will post it and/or send it to you. Note: these require Habanero Sugar. I get mine from Spice and Tea Exchange but I am sure you can probably get it in other places too. I happen to have a local shop.
 
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