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On Wednesday, Disney and Sanrio teamed up to file a copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit against the operator of a business who is selling “unlicensed and counterfeit edible cake frosting sheets and related items, which incorporate unauthorized likenesses of animated or live-action characters or other logos.”
According to the complaint in California federal court, Michigan resident George Wilson is creating cakes bearing plaintiffs’ intellectual property. The complaint isn’t particularly specific, but Disney and Sanrio note they have created such characters as Hello Kitty, Luke Skywalker, Iron Man and Captain America.
The lawsuit is being handled by J. Andrew Coombs, who has carved out quite a practice area in recent years on behalf of clients Disney, Sanrio and Warner Bros.
Coombs handles lots of cases in the area of unauthorized kitsch. In the past, he’s represented studios over unlicensed cellphone charms, pet paraphernalia, party goods and supplies, vinyl bracelets, and more. His recent case over Darth Vader cufflinks was settled this week with defendants agreeing to a permanent injunction — a pretty typical outcome in the kitsch IP game — while his most famous case, involving replicas of the Batmobile, is awaiting a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether Batman’s car is a “character” protectable under copyright law.
Now, add edible cake frosting to his plate. The trademark claims are premised on consumers being confused about official sponsorship or endorsement by the studios while the copyright claims attack too-similar reproductions of creative authorship. Among other demands, the lawsuit wants authority to seize “any molds, screens, patterns, plates, negatives, machinery or equipment used for making or manufacturing” the counterfeit cakes.
Here’s the complaint, though it’s a bit cookie-cutter.
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