The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Decorating License

BeaSmith's picture

Decorating License

The other day I stumbled upon this article. The article is a couple of years old, but it's still an interesting read because it talks about licensing issues on bakery products. Have any of you ever had any problems with this sort of thing?

HeidiH's picture

I taught librarian graduate students on this topic for years and just read the article.  It's quite good.  I would caution not to risk angering The Mouse (Disney), McDonald's, or the local university, all of whom are fearsome protectors of copyright and trademarks.  I know there is an inexpensive license that allows schools to show films in situations that are not considered "fair use," e.g. to entertain or reward the kids.  Fair use includes only strictly curricular use by non-profit, accredited schools so all schools should get the license to be safe. 

In searching around for licensing images for cakes, it seems the path of least resistance is to purchase the decoration sets from vendors like DecoPac or retailers that  sell cake decorations to the trade.  The license for using the product is included in the cost of purchase.  A company like Disney  is unlikely to grant permission for others to replicate their characters either by copy machine or by hand without an extensive process of proving to them you could maintain quality.  They want to control not only the use of the trademarked or copyrighted image but also the quality or they risk "diluting" the usefulness of the image.  To maintain a trademark, a company must show that it used due diligence to protect that trademark.  I wouldn't want to be respondent to a suit from The Mouse or MickeyD's just to help them have evidence  of due diligence.

In terms of copyright (I do not know as much about trademarks), ignorance of the law is no excuse and possible loss of income to the copyright holder is prime fodder for getting a judgment against the sinner.   If a bakery sells a cake with an unlicensed image it is preventing the owner of the copyright from earning money for the license or a copy of the image itself.  A single, well-litigated copyright infringement case can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in judgments against the infringer.  I would err on the side of caution.

Oh, and, as I understand it,  if you purchase a copyrighted item where it is being sold for home use only and you use that to decorate a cake you sell, you have violated the terms of the home use license just as a teacher would be violating copyright if they borrowed a DVD from the local public library and showed it to the kids as a reward -- unless the school has that all important class-room use license.