I'd like to start my own cake business but I was wondering what the legalities of character cakes. If I want to use a character pan or make a character cake (and sell the resulting cake) do I need to get a copyright license from the company? Like Disney or Warner Bros? I have a Bugs Bunny cake pan. If I want to make and sell a cake made with it do I need to have a license?
The character cake pans are licensed for home use only:
(The above info is available on the Wilton site and shown for every character pan sold.)
Additionally, on the character cakes page, the Wilton advises: "Licensed products are for domestic use only. We unfortunately cannot ship to a freight forwarder and cannot accept your order unless you can give use a domestic end destination address."
You'd have to contact every copyright holder individually and ask what their policy is. Disney is pretty much a no-go unless you have a ton of royalty money lying around. And rememebr that Disney just bought Marvel comics, so now all of those characters are theirs. Nickelodeon told me that they don't license their characters when I asked them years ago.
For pro and college sports teams, I contact each one individually, and some are easier to deal with than others. A few have just sent me forms with permission to do a limited number of cakes per year, and others want to approve final design before giving you permission. NONE of the pro teams I've spoken to want you to use photos of the cakes in your advertising or on your website, so you can't publish photos of their team logos on any cakes that you do make.
If you have a business license you can get the decopac kits to put on cakes if you have a specific character request, because buying those gives you the right to sell the cake with it on the cake.
Be careful with the copyrighted characters. I know there are tons of people who will sell them and don't care, but it is illegal to use the characters without pernission. I get calls all the time about doing character cakes, and I tell them that I won't do the copyrighted characters. I'm sure they just go on and get someone else to do it, but I don't want to deal with the fines that I'd be hit with if someone did pursue it. And Disney is know to pursue it, by the way.