Need Opinions On How To Deal With Licensed Cakes.

Decorating By Dreme Updated 10 Apr 2011 , 3:46am by scp1127

Dreme Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 6:06am
post #1 of 17

Lately I have been receiving more and more inquires for licensed character cakes. My partner and I do not agree on how they should be handled. He thinks that I should take the order (due to having to pay bills and make a paycheck, etc) and just not post any pics of the cake anywhere.

The business part of me sees a little bit of his point, but does not want to mess with the legalities. The artist part of me hates the concept of having to comply to an existing image, character, etc and the notion of having to get the character on point. I do not like having to do another person's style.

Now with that being said, I think I have an idea to make both us and the client happy (he really just wants me not to turn down the order or loose the client). I have been thinking on things like the Disney cakes, where some of the stories have multiple versions done by many writers and artist, I am open to taking those. The thing will be that I get to do my version of the story. Like Alice in Wonderland or the Little Mermaid. I can convey the concept, but Im not doing the Disney version.

Ok, now with things like the Nickelodeon style stuff, there's nothing like it, so there is no other way to convey the concept without being literal. I cannot make spongebob not like spongebob without the client going, "what tv show is this from?". The only thing I can think of is to do something like an underwater scene or whatever similar scenery is from the show and have the client place their own purchased figures on it. That is my only option, although that is so not the direction of style cakes I would like to go in. I do not like plastic figurines, but my bills and paycheck does so I may have to.

Our other concern is how to convey all of this to potential clients. So far they are not too happy about having to put in extra work or money into their cake. They just want it to be ready and do not like disappointment. I sorta don't care, but I need a professional way of telling/getting clients to understand what we do and don't do as far as these types of cakes. What is a nice way of putting all of this on our FAQ page and saying it when client calls? Should I even try to work with people and just suck it up, or take slow hit and phase these types of cakes out

I do understand the whole copyright thing, but i'm just trying to think of a way to make business and clients happy.

Sorry for the long post. Thank you for reading.

16 replies
scp1127 Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 6:51am
post #2 of 17

I just won't do them. When you go to the trouble to do everything by the book to open a business, why start bending the rules? This has been talked about before, but lawyers are already googling images for trademark infringement. Once you make the cake, the customer could post it and two years later, you have legal issues. Just google "spongebob cake" and see how easy it is to trace. A backgroung cake is probably the only legal compromise. I know it is hard when a competitor does them, but you have to decide where you want to stand with your business.

CreativeCakesbyMichelle Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 7:41am
post #3 of 17

I agree that you should go with the backgrounds and let the customer add thier own figures or do your own version of the generic stories. It's not worth risking your entire business.

jason_kraft Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 12:23pm
post #4 of 17

Even if creating your own characters from the generic stories you need to be careful that they won't be confused with the copyrighted characters, it's easy to be influenced unconsciously. We find it's easier (and more profitable) to just buy figurines of the licensed characters and add them to the cake, at a markup of course.

indydebi Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 1:04pm
post #5 of 17

share with your partner.....

disney has a legal dept: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=1006042208839
Patent Attorney speaks at a cake club: http://balloonhq.com/faq/twister_business.html#copyright
Disney employee whose job it is to find copyright infringements (see email at bottom of article): http://sdbytracy.com/copyrules.htm
Disney forces removal of images from daycare: http://www.snopes.com/disney/wdco/daycare.asp
Fines paid ($60K and that was the SETTLED amount!)z: http://cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=674044&postdays=0&postorder=asc&&start=0

buttercuppie Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 1:46pm
post #6 of 17

I had a client who wanted a Backyardigans cupcake tower for her grandson's 1st Birthday. I explained to her that I couldn't recreate the characters because they were the property of Nick. After I explained the legalities to her she had no problem because she loved the taste of my cakes. I ended up doing a cake with some houses and a backyard as a background and SHE purchased these adorable little cupcake decorations of all the characters...I got the sale and she got her theme...everyone was happy!

I just take the time to explain it to clients and tell them I can try to get permission...usually, they are grateful for that. If it's something that I know I can't do, I come up with an alternate "essence of" plan and leave the choice up to them.

cakesbycathy Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 4:18pm
post #7 of 17

Plus, the problem with just not posting them is that for sure the pics are going to get posted on someone's Facebook page and for sure it's going to come up where the cake came from.

It will get out real quick that you do character cakes and then it's highly likely you are going to get caught and have to deal with repurcussions.

Either get licensed with Decopac, have the clients get the figures or don't do them.

indydebi Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 4:23pm
post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by cakesbycathy

Plus, the problem with just not posting them is that for sure the pics are going to get posted on someone's Facebook page and for sure it's going to come up where the cake came from.

It will get out real quick that you do character cakes and then it's highly likely you are going to get caught and have to deal with repurcussions.

Either get licensed with Decopac, have the clients get the figures or don't do them.



Here's a story about a planner who used the "Oscar" decor (the Oscar award ... not Oscar the Grouch!). http://specialevents.com/news/planner-threatened-with-lawsuit-over-oscar-style-decor/

She did not post pics of the statuettes on her website but the Oscar people STILL found out about them.

Yeah .... it can happen!

buttercuppie Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 4:25pm
post #9 of 17

Read that story...INSANE...with technology these days almost everything is traceable...for peace of mind...sometimes you just have to say no.

JanH Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 5:32pm
post #10 of 17

Moving to the Cake Decorating forum.

Kristie925 Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 5:46pm
post #11 of 17

Are the laws different in Canada? I follow a blog from a woman that owns a cake business up there and almost all of her cakes are characters. She makes them out of fondant. She has a website, a facebook page and a blog with pics all over all of them.

jason_kraft Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 6:06pm
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kristie925

Are the laws different in Canada? I follow a blog from a woman that owns a cake business up there and almost all of her cakes are characters. She makes them out of fondant. She has a website, a facebook page and a blog with pics all over all of them.



Copyright laws apply in just about every country (including Canada). She probably either obtained permission from the copyright holders to make the cakes, or she's either not aware or doesn't care that it's illegal in which case she is at risk for lawsuits.

sweetflowers Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 6:09pm
post #13 of 17

[quote="Dreme"]. My partner and I do not agree on how they should be handled. He thinks that I should take the order (due to having to pay bills and make a paycheck, etc) and just not post any pics of the cake anywhere.

.[/quote]

So ask your partner how he feels about losing his business if you get caught? And if your partner is going to control all the guests at the party and the customer by not letting them take pics either.

Dreme Posted 1 Apr 2011 , 7:13pm
post #14 of 17

That is right, and people will tag you in a heartbeat in their Facebook photos. (Which the OCD in me does not like because I like my pics of the cakes better on the white background. They are cleaner.) I know that shouldn't matter as much as having the pic up there in the first place.

Hmm....so do the background cakes and let clients stick their figures on them? Are there requirements or does it cost to get with Decopac?

louanne Posted 9 Apr 2011 , 10:56pm
post #15 of 17

I only do copyrights without using figurines for friends/family where the cake is a gift and I am not being paid. All others I get nice figurines and make the background to match, i usually buy my disney figurines from the disney store, i try to stock up when they are on sale, yes they are kinda pricy but very nice and my customers appreciate that they arent the same thing you can get at the grocery store bakery.

AmysCakesNCandies Posted 10 Apr 2011 , 1:31am
post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreme

The only thing I can think of is to do something like an underwater scene or whatever similar scenery is from the show and have the client place their own purchased figures on it. That is my only option, although that is so not the direction of style cakes I would like to go in. I do not like plastic figurines, but my bills and paycheck does so I may have to.

.




This is pretty much exactly what I do I try to come up with a great idea for a unique design where they can add the figurines so it doesn't look like a grocery store cake. For example I did a 3D treasure chest on top of sand with a treasure map under it that the customer added thier own sponge bob pirate figurines, or a two tier cake with racing flags, trophies and the colors for disney cars with a road twisting up the cake for them to put the cars figures on. By doing a design that suggests the character without using the character I avoid copyright issues and my customers get excitred about the unique ideas for the cake.

I just tell people outright when they ask about licenced cakes that I cannot do copyright caracters due to licensing legalities but I can create a cake where they can incorporate thier own character. I have done some characters for friends and family, but am not willing to risk selling them.

scp1127 Posted 10 Apr 2011 , 3:46am
post #17 of 17

I have a category on my site for licensed character cakes. When they click on it, the description states that the cakes are in violation of trademark law without written consent. I then explain the alternative of adding figures to a background inspired cake. The figures are then keepsakes or toys.

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