13 February 2012

TRADEMARK IT! Identity Theft by any other Name


 This is a warning to anyone out there who thinks that QLD Government covers you when you start a business and try to do everything by their rules...you get screwed! It's called Identity Theft and there's nothing you can do about it once it's happened.
 Unfortunately, this Blog won't be about my cakes but the business of Names. A very steep learning curve.

So three weeks ago, I got up on a Monday morning and jumped on to answer client emails which is all I seem to do in my spare time. One of the few answered that morning was from a fellow called Gabriel who had asked me via email to join his free promotional wedding page "TopWeddingsAustralia". I had spent over an hour the previous week answering his "interview" via email and attached several of my cake photos to be included in the site.
  He seemed decent and polite enough in our written discussions and when I recieved the email stating that his website was functioning and the link, I was so excited I immediately jumped onto it.
  You can imagine how dissapointed and betrayed I felt when I saw a website for a lady calling herself "cake girl" who wasn't me.
  Boy - it was like a kick in the gut.
  I went straight to her site from the tab and looked at her website: so close in name to my own.
  Then I flicked back and forth in tabs to Gabriels' and couldn't spot my own...WTF?
  So I immediately picked up the phone and spoke to the Department of Fair Trading. According to the person on the phone, there wasn't much I could do.
   He checked ABN's for her and trading names: Nothing.
  There was every chance that she wasn't working from a legal kitchen.and had started the business without the required licences. If this was the case I was to write a letter to the Registrar of Business Names explaining the situation and basically telling on her.
  I didn't want to do this.
  He told me not to worry - if she tried to use the business name it would come up as "too close" in the files and not allow her to have it.
  The trouble was she already had taken up a web address that was extremely close. Using a prefix of 'the' as any librarian will tell you doesn't mean that the name is filed under T.
  This woman had used the same name as me without the prefix and as far as I was concerned she was trading under my name already!
  I thought about what the guy had said and pressed the "contact me" tab on her site. The only way to reach her was thorugh an email so I made an enquiry asking her to please call me in regards to her trading name. I wanted to know why? Why had she started using my business name? Yes, her website explained this was her nicckname but so what? It didn't mean she had the right to hurt my business!
  I jumped on Facebook and asked my Fans and Friends for help. Anoher cake decorator - Sarah Jane from Cake That was a plethora of knowledge. Armed with more information I rang IP Australia (Intellectual Property) - by this time office hours were closed...they run on Sydney time...stupid me!
  Sitting on the computer I tried to get as many details as I could but the IP site was so confusing using terminology I'd never heard of.
  A night of restless sleep followed as I hadn't done any work. I couldn't help feeling that the universe was going against me and that there was nothing I could do.
  The next morning 8am rolled around slowly. I finally managed to get through to someone at IP who basically told me what I had already gathered. I could apply for a trademark as a word, a typeface or a logo and each one cost over a $100.
  And this wasn't a certainty! I would then have to wait 3-4 months until they let me know whether the application had passed! Once they let me know if it was a positive return I would need to pay for an Australian or an International trademark on top of the money already spent.
  Now I understand...it's another way for more money to be dished out to government. What a rort!
 Fine -caught between a rock and a hard place I had no choice. I placed my applcation and wished for the best...not that it's ever helped in the past but what could it hurt?
  My head was spinning. I was over tired, feeling ill and sick of it all. Is it really all worth it? All those years of trying to get something together. Something I wanted to do, Something I thought I could be good at - out the door!
  Then I sent the lady another email...please respond! I was going out of my mind!
  I sent emails to trademark lawyers but had no response.
  I sent an email to the website creators and lastly an email to Gabriel. Explaining my dismay at having discovered this lady through his website with the same business name, in the same city, I thought he would realise what had happened and remove the website link and replace it with mine.
  But no.
  Not only did he not do this but he repsonded to my email with the nerve to say "We'll I have checked your Business names and your's is The Cake Girl, and the one in the site is Cake Girl, some sort of similarity but two completely different businesses. As for the website, your's is http://www.thecakegirl.com.au/ , and the one on the site is http://www.cakegirl.com.au/ , and if I am not mistaken these are two complete different websites." WHAT??? Completely different businesses?? How so? With a prefix of 'the'? We both make cakes. We're both in Brisbane. We're both called the cake girl!
  I'll tell you the difference!
  I have an ABN and a registered business name.
  I have been trading using this name for 4 years!
  I have worked, done the hard yards and advertised for clients - to which I now have a business which is reasonably successful.

...looking up every possible link from google to my name, I found her phone number back on the original promotional website. Upon calling, I was directed to message bank and I left the same massge as I had via email: Could she please call me in regards to the business name?
  It was approximately 5-10 minutes later that my phone rang.
  Following my explanation, she stated that "she never meant to hurt anybody" and that "it was an honest mistake" but it didn't feel like she wanted to do anything to change the situation.
  How depressing.

By the end of the week the website was still up and running and one of the lawyers I had spoken to had responded with a phone call informing me that after my call, the lady had applied for an ABN using her name - not the cake girl.
 Honest my foot!

 So with all the stress, I am now in the process of employing a lawyer to follow this through.
 With the verict being - trademark! Do it before you end up in the same situation as me. It's extra money but it's the only avenue we can take to make sure someone else doesn't come by and use all the work you've done to jump the queue.

29 January 2012

With the Rain, Comes the Frogs

Happy New Year to you all - 2012 and the Year of the Dragon!
It's been way too long and I've finally put my feet up; it's Sunday with no cakes due until tomorrow and a busy year ahead.
A lot has happened since the last time I blogged. Business has boomed, we've moved houses (not far, only to Cannon Hill) and cake classes have recommenced.
So I thought I would use this Blog as a kind of tutorial as many of my students have requested I show them how I cut a 3D Novelty cake to shape.
Most of you will have watched cake shows on television to some extent and have your favourites. Personally, I love seeing how other cake decorarators work but I'm let down by the amount of 'rice treats' or wood/piping in their work. I think as cake professionals, we should be dealing more with food products to construct or cake rather than plastic, steel or foam.
Therefore the following "Frog" cake is 99% cake with 2 skewers inserted to provide structural elements to the head.
 1. Start with a 10" square cake. Usually most shapes can be cut from a square. This would be the smallest I would start with as ultimately, you still have a cake big enough to make an impression and yet small enough for details.

 2. Always have a refernce on hand - photos of the frog's left, right and top views are always good. As you turn your cake you can make sure the Frog looks correct from all angles.
  Cutting the cake in half on an angle gives your frog a larger front and a smaller bottom.
 3. Cut the slope down the back of the Frog: this will give you the first few 'extra' pieces' you can work with for other parts of the frog.
 4. Cut in the back bottom section to have a flat point for the frog's bottom.
 5, With the 'extra pieces' slice them in quarters - using two to achieve the shape of the back legs. Make them look as similar in size and shape as possible.
 6. With the other 2 pieces left over, cut the top half of the back legs.
 7. Cut into the front body of the frog. If you cut too far the head may fall from the weight so always cut in smaller pieces. You can keep cutting but you cannot add cake back to the structure if you remove it's strength.
8. Pull the parts apart and keep them in such a manner so you can easily remember where they all fit - just like a jigsaw puzzle!
 9. Using ganache, start "glueing" your pieces together. You want to make sure the cake is all one solid piece before covering in fondant. The thicker your fondant, the harder it will dry so make sure you have fondant that won't remain too soft and will set.
 10. The whole frog need to be completely covered and tacky all over for the fondant to stick to the cake.
 11. Roll your icing out and using a rolling pin unroll slowly over the frog using you hands to smooth the fondant out as it adhere's to the cake. Cut off any exces left on the board. Using your hands make sure all the fondant is as smooth as possible and firmly attached.
 12. Roll out a piece of icing into a thin rope and then indent in the centre and approximately 1" from each end. Fold in half and add a c entre piece to make each of the Frogs feet.
 14, Attach to the two hind legs first and then add the two front feet as well.
 15. Using your fingers, indent the line for the mouth of the frog with the two dimples on either side for the mouth to curve into a smile.
 16. Roll out two black modelling paste balls and attach with some water for the eye balls.
 17. Cut out 2 circles the size of the width of the eye ball and cut in half, Attach to the frogs eye's with a touch of water to give the effect of eyelids.

 18. Cuttin two more strips per eye, attach and fold over the eye to create folds of skin and cut away any excess with a scalpel.

19. Using an airbrushed start colouring your frog. Lighter colours first.
 20. Add darker colours and keep layering to achieve a more realistic colour hue. Darker shading around joints and to accent parts like eyes, feet etc.
 21. With a paint brush colour in the eyelids and the mouth.
 22. Using a piece of wire attach the tongue to the inside of the mouth and allow to dry.
 23. Paint the tongue red and the details on the blowfly. Add other small element - some leaves the birthday message...

VOILA! Here is your finished Frog masterpiece!
I hope you enjoyed and have fun making your own amphibian!