Is Imitation, Flattery?

The 45th President of The United States was Inaugurated this weekend, and like any party, there was a spectacular cake.  This particular cake garnered a LOT of attention, due to its similarities to the last inaugural cake design created for former President Obama. While this made an interesting sound bite, and all parties are apparently cool about it, it has raised a fair bit of interest in the cake community; with the subject of Intellectual Property once again brought to the fore. This post isn’t about to get political, so let’s all take a deep breath here; it is meant to talk about what role intellectual property plays in our great cake community.

What IS Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property is broadly defined as someone’s unique creative work. More specifically, it is broken down into 3 groups; Trademark, Patent, and Copyright. Copyright applies to “original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression”, so it begs the question, does cake count?

There’s no doubt that cake artistry is a valid form of artistic expression, but at what point do designs become subject to copyright? Here’s where the cake crumbles.

There are no “rules” guarding the creation of original cake designs, save for the use of registered Copyrights like Disney and Marvel. Nowhere is there a list of cake designs that can only be reproduced by permission, and no cake designs are currently protected by approved Copyright grants. So why the fuss?

Speaking as someone that creates original designs, I can imagine how put-out someone would be to see their hard work copied, particularly if it’s an intricate design that may have cost you time and money to develop. I can also see that people embracing my artistic style, and replicating it, would give me a buzz, and possibly increase my profile. On the other hand, some of us might see the re-creation of our original work to be flattering, or even desirable. Both points are valid.

So which is right?

Is Copyright good for Cake?

Assuming we COULD Copyright cake designs, would we want to? That’s the kicker.

Original designs are surprisingly few and far between in the cake world, more than you might really imagine. There was a whole world of cake before the Internet! Would we run the risk of stifling creativity by imposing restrictions? Or would we be rewarding genuine strokes of brilliance? I don’t know actually. Assuming those designs WERE Copyright, what difference would it REALLY make? How many Disney cakes have YOU seen, this morning alone?

Is the threat of prosecution really something we want to bring into art? How then does this affect the genuine claim of Intellectual ownership, and possible “brand erosion” that Copyright designs have a legal right to protect? Yikes. I need a cupcake.

Stop, collaborate, and listen

My 100% Buttercream Labyrinth Cake nearly broke me!

How about we just play fair? I would wager that MOST Cake Artists would be honored to have their designs replicated IF they were asked. As mentioned, some designs can be life-changing, bank balance draining, mind-altering extravaganzas of creative exhaustion. Life may have been particularly hard at the time. You might have battled illness, or loss, and pushed through to create a cake, only to have someone come along and replicate it. That would surely sting.

Considering the research and training that goes into creating a cake, what’re the few extra steps to find out who made the cake you are inspired by? I’ve even got a blog post showing you step by step on how to search for an image using Google images. Who knows, you might even make a new Cake Buddy in the process!

Requesting permission builds relationships- Cake Studio Rouge recreated this design by Rebekah Naomi Cake Design by requesting permission. They also “tagged” the original creator of the design when they posted it online. Brownie Points to Cake Studio Rouge!

Where does the line get crossed?

Well, if your photographs are taken and used by another individual- yes, a line has been crossed. We’re not talking about imitating or replicating your work, we’re talking about taking it. It is never OK to steal someone else’s images and pass them off as your own, even if it is to show potential clients what you’re capable of.

How can you protect against having your images taken? 

There’s no sure fire way to prevent it, but adding watermarks to your images is a good first step. Incorporating a watermark- especially one imposed over a very visible part of the cake picture – is a good way to prevent anyone else claiming ownership of your work. If you do see your image being used by another individual or business online, quite often you can report the theft of your intellectual property and have those images taken down.

Keep creating, keep innovating, and keep making the cake world the awesome place it is. And use more Buttercream too ?

Kerrie x



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