Many customers come to us with a special theme, idea, or design in mind for their special event. There’s nothing better then to see your child’s eyes light up when they get a peek at a especially designed cake all lit up with candles. When it comes to children’s birthdays parents want to give their child the cake of their dreams. We often have customers wanting to order a specific character theme. “Unfortunately due to copy right issues, I can’t recreate that,” is our apologetic answer.
Our main goal is to make sure our customers are extremely happy with their product, but as tempting as it is to try to evade copyright laws, it’s just not worth it. With the large legal teams that companies such as Mattel, Barbie, Nintendo, Nickelodeon and Disney have they have every right to come after a business that recreates their artwork which will ultimately result in massive legal fees. Even if your a small business and think “I’m small why would a large company come after me?” It’s just not the case.
A violation occurs when anyone in association with those organization sees a product that has been recreated. These organizations spend a minimum of 12 months producing images and artwork. Every step of the designing process needs approval from a colorless prototype to addition of color, and every step of the way requires approval to make sure the branding of that property is followed. Not just one piece is worked on at a time, hundreds of products are being created at any given moment. Following branding means that every detail needs to be correct i.e. icing color, font, design, boarder, etc.
“How can a grocery store create a Mickey cake and you can not?” The only way a company can legally sell a product featuring licensed characters or logos is to purchase kits through a direct licensee like DecoPac and Bakery Crafts, or a third party manufacturer like Lucks. You can find many pictures of unlicensed decorated cakes on facebook, pinterest, instagram, and websites posted by individuals and businesses alike. This is either a lack of knowledge by the baker/decorator, or lack of caring, but it doesn’t mean that the copyright still isn’t enforced.
Most of the worst offensives come from not just characters, but licensed artwork being recreated without a licensing agreement i.e. designer purses, shoes, sports team logos.
“I purchased the t-shirt, hat, plates, invitations, (etc.) Can’t you just scan a print it?” Even if a bakery has a edible image printer and scanner doesn’t mean they have rights to reprint it either. If you are selling a cake for profit and putting a scanned design on it then it is illegal. Even if you are creating a cake personally for yourself you still run a minimal risk of being seen – You may not post pictures on social media sites either.
Making everyone happy.
Even though copyrights can put a small damper on things and are a bit frustrating it is not necessarily a terrible thing. So.. how do we go about creating a custom cake that will make you (our customer), as well as the licensors happy, and protect our company?
1. Get permission – This takes a little bit of leg work and time, but it can be done. We have had quite a few clients in the past write specific companies for permission to use their logo on a cake. Butler University and The Detroit Redwings have given us approval in the past to put their logo on groom’s cakes. We require a written letter on company letterhead emailed or snail mailed directly to us by the licensor.
2. Provide a licensed figurine – Providing a figurine or toy is an even more exciting way for your little one to have a special birthday. This is not considered infringement because the copyright owner has already been paid by the licensee. When the cake is cut apart and eaten, only the memory remains not the product it was printed on. Little ones love to be able to keep a toy they get to play with. You just killed 2 birds with one stone – an awesome cake, and a present.
3. Think Generic – We can make a cake in the shape of a shoe, but it’s not Nike.
4. Public Domain – Public domain means either the author has given up copyright protection or copyright has expired. You can Google to find this information out.
At the end of the day, someone, somewhere, some company has invested a lot of time and energy in creating original works of art and expects to be compensated for it. If you were in the same position wouldn’t you want protection too?