We’ve all seen local bakeries and supermarkets selling cakes decorated with the images of trademarked cartoon/movie/comic characters and not many people seem to care that the decorator may not have permission to use these images. But there’s also a difference between someone’s hand-iced Captain America cake and a company that uses movie stills and promotional art to make pre-fab cake frosting sheets. Thus, Disney, Lucasfilm and Sanrio — tired of seeing cakes featuring the unauthorized faces of Yoda, Iron Man, and Hello Kitty — have teamed up to sue two Michigan men for trademark and copyright infringement.
In the complaint [PDF], filed earlier this week in a federal court in California, lawyers representing Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Sanrio allege that the two men (and other unnamed defendants) used an eBay storefront to sell “counterfeit edible cake frosting sheets and related items, which incorporate unauthorized likenesses of animated or live action characters or other logos owned by” the plaintiffs.
The lists of supposedly violated trademarks take up around 15 pages of the complaint. They range from classic Disney characters — Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Bambi, Frozen, Toy Story, Cinderella… even images from that horrendous mauling of The Black Cauldron — to dozens of Hello Kitty trademarks, to Marvel icons like Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, to the Star Wars universe, including a copyright described as “Darth Vader and Son,” which makes us which Luke and his pop had just patched things up and opened a hardware store together.
The plaintiffs say they served — and the defendants received — cease and desist demands, but that the allegedly fraudulent frosters continued on with their business.
“By engaging in this conduct, Defendants have acted in willful disregard of laws protecting Plaintiffs’ goodwill and related proprietary rights and have confused and deceived, or threaten to confuse and deceive, the consuming public concerning the source and sponsorship of the products,” reads the complaint.
In addition to seeking damages and to stop the defendants from selling anymore infringing cake decorations, the plaintiffs are calling for the seizure of “any molds, screens, patterns, plates, negatives, machinery or equipment used for making or manufacturing” the offending products.
While we couldn’t find the defendants’ store on the U.S. eBay platform, the folks at ComicBookResources.com found what appears to be the defendants’ items for sale on eBay Australia. Aside from the Yoda birthday cake decoration at the top of this story, this store sells frosting screens for video game titles (Assassin’s Creed, Halo), TV shows (Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead), non-Disney animation (Minions, Curious George)… and random pieces of female apparel.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Eriq Gardner notes that the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in this case appears to have carved out a nice niche in going after the kitschier end of trademark infringement complaints. This attorney recently settled a lawsuit with the makers of Darth Vader cufflinks and is currently litigating a case involving the legality of Batmobile replicas.