I'm probably wrong, but it seems to me that you can only copyright the sketch, and not any work that another might do as a result of seeing the sketch.??? If another decorator uses your basic idea and changes one detail, it's essentially not your design and you're SOL.
This isn't an issue for me because of the nature of the work I do--and I rarely sketch, anyway, but if it were an issue, I personally would never hand over sketches, even on paid orders. I might charge an outrageous fee for the sketch to discourage purchase, or the "cost" of the sketch would be rolled into the cost of the cake to make certain that I get what I'm owed for either, or both.
Colette Peters does fabulous, detailed sketches and I believe she said that she now charges $$$$ for them because of customers requesting them and then taking them to other decorators to be copied.
My compromise position would be to provide a written description to the customer---let another decorator do their own interpretation of what they think is in my head......
Just my .02
off the subject....but i just looked at your website....MAN! that cake on the opening page!...STUNNING!
Thank you all for your responses. I was actually looking for a response to an email. I may incorporate it into my contract or website. A lot of people contact me by email. I am not just going to email out all of my designs and let someone shop them all over town. I can meet with them and show them the sketches, but they stay with me until they book.
littlecake, I'm not sure if you are talking about my site or not. If you are... thank you so much! It's my not nearly as good attempt at a cake by adven68.
Here's how I handle sketches.
My website says: "...I will work with you to design your cake and draw you a color sketch, so we both know the final result will be what you envision. This sketch will be what I work from when creating your cake."
When I talk to or email a bride, I tell them we'll get together for our consult and look at designs, and I will do a rough sketch to get our ideas on paper. I then take that home with me to re-do in full color (and better artwork) when I have time after the consult. At this point I'm assuming they will book the wedding...and I tell them that the full-color sketch will be emailed to them "later" (meaning after they've booked), so they have a picture of what their cake will look like, and they'll be able to see the actual design that I'll be recreating. It eliminates a lot of the "Oh...I thought you meant PIPED borders, not ribbon borders..." issues.
Final sketch design = final cake design; they always match.
If they asked me for the rough sketch, I wouldn't let them have it because "oh, you don't want this--it's all scribbled on with our notes, etc." I've never had anyone ask me for the rough sketch at the consult, but I don't really worry about them shopping around--by the time I meet in person with a bride, we've talked enough that they're pretty much sold already.
Yeah homecook, I was going to say the same thing. By the time they get a sketch from me, the deposit has been paid. I mean, I think it's only fair that they get a copy with their contract.
Here are a few thoughts
I am trying to sell my 2nd house and since I have a renter in the house my realtor was going to list it as the buyer has to put in a offer to be able to view the house, contingent upon viewing the house, so they can cancel their offer after looking at it....
So, you probably have pictures on your website, if someone wants a custom consultation you are happy to provide that, but they must give you a deposit of ______ and book a date and it is refundable (or partially) if they don't want to use the design you custom create for them, but sign at the consultation that they will not show or describe your unique design to any other decorators...... that the DESIGN is your property. You probably don't have a lot of legal standing to defend that, but at least they are thinking about it.....