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Intellectual Property Law

Putting ‘A’ on Law School Cookies Poses Problem for Alabama Bakery, Cease-and-Desist Letter Says

Posted Aug 23, 2012 1:36 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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"Bama shortbread" is listed as a specialty of
Mary's Cakes & Pastries.

It isn't clear that Mary Cesar did anything wrong by filling an order from the University of Alabama School of Law for 10 dozen cookies decorated with the letter A, for consumption at a reception for recent graduates.

But after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from an Atlanta, Ga., company that provides licensing services for the university's trademarked items, Cesar says she's afraid her Northport, Ala., bakery business, Mary's Cakes & Pastries, could be forced to shut down if she doesn't eliminate the letter A from her products. Part of the problem is that her small business can't afford to pay legal or licensing fees, and hence, she says, is careful to comply with what she thought were the applicable intellectual property rules. Cesar avoids, for example, putting Disney characters on her baked goods, reports the Tuscaloosa News.

Another issue is that the letter doesn't explain exactly what Alabama trademarks Collegiate Licensing Co. wants her to stop infringing, although it does indicate that a "Script A" and the phrase "Roll Tide" aren't Cesar's to use, the article notes. While the letter says she is not to use "trademarks, name, logos, colors, slogans, mascots and other indicia associated with the university," does that mean, Cesar wonders, that she can't use a generic elephant cookie cutter and red frosting?

Rather than take a chance of litigation and being forced to pay hefty licensing costs she can't afford, Cesar is eliminating certain products, the newspaper explains.

"If I put an 'A' on a cookie, it is not like I am making gobs of money," said Cesar. "And until I got this letter, I did not think there was a problem.

"A large number of these cookies, we actually sell to the university and the athletic department. I assumed if we were doing anything wrong, they would not be ordering them."

Attorney James Aronowitz serves as associate general counsel for Collegiate Licensing. He declined to specify what exactly is at issue concerning the baked goods sold by Mary's Cakes & Pastries, but said his company hopes to resolve the situation amicably, the newspaper reports.

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