A trademark is used to identify a symbol -- like a logo -- word or phrase unique to your business and prevent others from using the same mark in the sale of their products. Let's say you are a famous chocolate chip manufacturer and you put a cookie recipe on the back of your package. You may want to give the cookies a unique name and trademark the name so consumers will think of your brand of chocolate chips when someone mentions the cookies.
A Recipe for Protection
Where a recipe is concerned, you can trademark the name of the product that the recipe creates or even a symbol associated with the recipe. However, if you want to protect the content of the recipe itself, you will need a different type of protection. If you write down the recipe in a creative and unique manner, perhaps in a cookbook with additional recipes, you may be able to copyright it. This would prevent others from reprinting or publishing it.
Protection for Trade Secrets
If you use your recipe in business -- such as the secret formula for a soft drink or ingredients in a restaurant's signature barbecue sauce -- it may also be subject to trade secret protection. If you are able to protect your recipe as a trade secret, you can prevent others from using your recipe commercially.