Image courtesy of Rick's Bakery
In the midst of graduation cake orders and design requests, it can be easy to forget that if you recreate schools’ logos, mascots, and/or slogans on your bakery products without first obtaining their written permission, you will likely run into serious legal issues in the way of trademark and copyright infringement.
It’s important to do this legwork early. You’ll rest easier knowing you have those approval letters on hand now, before the season arrives.
Rick’s Bakery, for example, is an officially licensed University of Arkansas bakery in Arkansas and sells dozens of approved Razorback products. The licensing process cost owner Rick Boone several thousand dollars, which was less than expected. And 10 percent of all University of Arkansas sales go to the university for royalties. Cake decorators only use images that are pre-approved by the university.
It’s always safest to work with cake decorating suppliers like DecoPac, who handle the licensing process.  
“We are very cautious with licensed characters and logos. A lot of times people want us to draw a college logo on their cake, but we shy away from anything that is copyrighted,” says Marc Serrao, owner of Oakmont Bakery in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. “We go through DecoPac.”
If you are piping popular movie characters onto cakes, reprinting copyrighted pictures—or serving products with logos from your local high school or university—you are inviting litigation into the bakery. It doesn’t matter if you are a small bakery, a supermarket or an at-home baker. If you sell a cake with a licensed character that was not purchased from a licensee, it is illegal. It’s safe to assume that every movie, television or popular book character has been trademarked by its source. When it comes to cakes, bakeries need a license to decorate.
According to the International Trademark Association, a trademark license is an agreement between the trademark owner and another party—the licensee—that permits reproduction and sales of the trademarked good. Cake decorating companies such as DecoPac and Lucks are licensees. Their licensing agreements protect bakers from trademark infringement.
When dealing with licensed characters, there are two main options: cake-decorating kits and edible print-outs. The system is a licensed-character catalogue for edible print-outs.
Bakeries pay per print. Retail bakery owners like Ray Fleckenstein appreciate the print-on-demand system because at any time, he can handle requests for any licensed character sold by DecoPac.

What is Intellectual Property?

In the United States, Intellectual Property falls into three categories: 

  • Patent: A property right granted by the U.S. government that excludes others—for a time—from making, using or selling an invention.
  • Trademark: A protection on words (and phrases), names, symbols, colors and sounds. Trademarks indicate the source of a product, and they can be renewed forever. Example: the Shrek franchise; Earmark: ™ for an unregistered trademark (this may be used regardless of registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) or ® for a federally registered trademark.
  • Copyright: A protection on authored, expressed works—writings, music and art. Copyrights are good for the life of the author plus 70 years. Example: photographs; Earmark: 
Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office