Skip to Content
2-04-2012 @ 1:41AM
I wish I would've seen this topic earlier this evening...ANYWAY, I'm a cake decorator in a bakery for a very large, well-known department store. I have to turn down these types of orders a lot. Not because I think Blizzard is going to knock at my door. But because being a large corporation, we are watched like a hawk by some other companies when it comes to trademarks and copyrights. And there has been legal trouble in the past.There's a line that has to be drawn. And in general, the safest path is just to say "No" to everything. If it becomes known that we are doing custom Warcraft cakes, next it will be "I heard you did a Warcraft cake, I want a custom Mickey Mouse cake." and "Why won't you do my Star Wars cake if you did that Starcraft cake?" And "My friend got..." and "Last time you made me..." And it becomes rough to close the gates once they have been opened.We actually have to do the same thing with professional pictures, such as during graduation. It basically comes down to "We do not have the rights to copy this photograph and then sell the copy (in the form of edible image)". The photographers around here are all generally willing to give us permission (either the customer brings us a one-time use release form - the easiest for us, or occasionally we will call the photography studio), but being a worldwide corporation, we tend to attract the crosshairs, and there have been lawsuits in the past at other stores.My advice? Skip the big chain stores, the big grocery stores, Wal-mart, Target, etc. You might find someone there that will do your cake, but more than likely the standard response will be no. The stores get hundreds of customers, and the scale of who can potentially see your cake can rise rather quickly. Even if it's not openly up for display, someone could see the decorator working on it, employees can see it, word can get around, etc. Then the customer takes their cake home and uploads it to the internet and it can be sniffed out. And then they find out that say, Target is doing unlicensed Mickey Mouse cakes (even if it was only one), and the Disney lawyers show up. And then someone's facebook photo goes around saying "Check out this sweet custom Star Wars cake we got at Wal-mart." Yeah... it happens.A smaller, local place may yield better results. It's still using trademarked characters and art, but it's a much smaller scale, and much fewer potential eyes. They still might be wary of something like Disney or Nickelodeon or Star Wars or even Mario (I've contacted Nintendo about a personal cake at home and their response wasn't entirely a hard line, but that's a tangent...), but other video games and niches are probably more likely to yield a "sure, I can do that".So in many ways, it depends on the store and the company who owns the trademark. Blizzard might not go after Angie's Cake Shoppe in suburbia for doing one Warcraft cake, but that doesn't mean companies like Disney, Nickelodeon, Lucasarts, and Major League sports aren't on the lookout. Now throw in a large chain store like Wal-mart or Target or Kroger or Hy-Vee that get hundreds of customers a day, and these companies have to step in to protect their trademarks and make sure they aren't being misrepresented and that others are grossly profiting from their creations.
2-04-2012 @ 7:03AM
"There's a line that has to be drawn. And in general, the safest path is just to say "No" to everything. If it becomes known that we are doing custom Warcraft cakes, next it will be "I heard you did a Warcraft cake, I want a custom Mickey Mouse cake." and "Why won't you do my Star Wars cake if you did that Starcraft cake?" And "My friend got..." and "Last time you made me..." And it becomes rough to close the gates once they have been opened."This is the most cogent point and I'm a little upset I didn't include one line on this in the article. People say "no" to things that are "okay" all the time, not because they don't like you or don't want to make you something, but the laws are nebulous and our people so scared of litigation that no one knows the rules so everyone just says no. The problem is that this type of bewilderment hurts businesses. How many times have you had to say no to a line-straddler when you could really question what was going on to that dessert?
2-04-2012 @ 5:01PM
Honestly, I'm probably a little more lenient than I'm supposed to be by store standards. But yeah, there are times I have to turn down cakes that a) wouldn't be hard, b) would be FUN to make, and c) I doubt one cake would cause a legal uproar (unless maybe it was Mickey Mouse - everyone is scared of Disney it seems). I think a lot of it just comes from working where I do. When I do personal cakes at home for friends and family it's another story, and I generally limit myself only by what my skill level is.Two follow-ups:1) Is it technically still trademark infringement any time you use/make unlicensed art, or in this case, cakes and cake decorations? There gets to be large debates on the cake decorating forums I visit. Some people are strictly on the side of "any use is illegal." Some lean towards "If I don't sell it, but gift it for free/make it for my family, it's okay." Some recognize that they can't use Mickey Mouse, but still use things like sports logos, Hello Kitty, and Jack Daniels. Some don't seem to care either way. It's more of a question I think for the smaller in-house decorators and the hobbyists - most of the people with the bigger businesses and lots of clients, they just go straight for "no."2) Regardless of whether or not they fear a lawsuit, it could simply be a blanket company policy that "we will not do any trademarked character cakes beyond the DecoPac kits that we have already purchased" It can save the decorators a lot of hassle, particularly in grocery stores/Wal-marts where the skill of the decorators may vary. For example, I'm pretty artistic and have the skill that allows for custom designs, but we have three decorators all of various skill, I don't work every day, and not everyone can decorate beyond the kits and pictures we get. Additionally, sometimes we just have so many orders and other work that we don't have TIME do be doing a lot of customs.
First time? A confirmation email will be sent to you after submitting.
Members enter your username and password.
Enter your AOL or AIM screenname and password.
Please keep your comments relevant to this blog entry. Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments.
When you enter your name and email address, you'll be sent a link to confirm your comment, and a password. To leave another comment, just use that password.
To create a live link, simply type the URL (including http://) or email address and we will make it a live link for you. You can put up to 3 URLs in your comments. Line breaks and paragraphs are automatically converted — no need to use <p> or <br /> tags.