Friday, September 5

Claiming All Confetti: Sprinkles Cupcakes

The next time your read a recipe that calls for sprinkles on top of a cupcake, it might be a recipe for disaster. At least that’s what the legal eagles charged with defending the name of a three-year-old “cupcake only” shop in Beverly Hills thinks.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Sprinkles has sent about a dozen letters to shops around the country and filed three lawsuits, including one last month against Famous Cupcakes in North Hollywood because it too uses dots on its packaging and in its store.

But what’s so odd about warning away other small businesses from using candy, dots, and other decorations is that Sprinkles doesn’t even use dots all that much in its identity or on its Web site. In fact, it seems to me that few, if any, of the cupcake bakeries have any similarity in their presentation. See for yourself: Sprinkles Cupcakes, Sprinkled Pink Cupcake Couture, and Famous Cupcakes.

Sure, I’m not an attorney, but I do know enough about trademarks to understand no one can claim common symbols or words like sprinkles. I also know my grandmother used to adorn her cupcakes with a candy corn at the end of every October and Necco Wafers whenever it struck her. She had taken the idea from a small neighborhood bakery in the Midwest.

So when you add it all up, whatever Sprinkles Cupcakes thinks it can gain from flirting with legal action against other bakeries will be lost to bad public relations. And it might become worse than that.

Beyond looking greedy or silly or petty or all of the above, these lawsuits could run the risk of the company having its own identity challenged. After all, Sprinkles Custom Cakes has held since 1997. Since trademarks are based on first published usage, not first registration filed, or any other bakery that has happened to use sprinkles in their name might do the same.

Conversely, if Sprinkles loses even one lawsuit, it’s likely more bakeries will be adding “sprinkles” to their names; not fewer as the owners of Sprinkles Cupcakes had hoped. It’s already on the radar. [Hat tip: Spin Thicket.]



Anonymous said...

I'm a stay at home mum in Australia, running a VERY small home based cupcake business with the word Sprinkles in it. We received legal papers from Sprinkles just last week stating we must change our name or face being sued!!! PLEASE!!! We're on the other side of the world and had never even heard of Sprinkles Cupcakes before we started our business!!! So I guess a stay at home Mum trying to make some pocket money on the side is a pretty petty and extremely sad case for Sprinkles Cupcakes US!!!!!! Have a heart Sprinkles Cupcakes!!!!! Not sure about anyone in the US, but I know my hundreds (and their hundreds) of Facebook friends will NEVER shop at a Sprinkles Cupcakes US store EVER!!!!!! Word spreadas fast, and so does bad PR!!!


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