Collegiate Licensing Co. in Atlanta has issued a cease and desist order to a small bakery in Tuscaloosa, Ala., which has been using the script "A" and other images associated with the University of Alabama on its baked goods because they violate the school's licensing agreement.
The kicker? Those baked good have consistently been ordered — with all of the Alabama image accoutrements — by various departments at the University of Alabama, including the athletic department.
"If I put an 'A' on a cookie, it is not like I am making gobs of money," Mary Cesar, owner of Mary's Cakes & Pastries told the Tuscaloosa News. "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."
Collegiate Licensing Co., which has a contact with the University of Alabama to provide licensing services for the university's trademarked items, sent Cesar a letter demanded her to stop using images and words associated with Alabama or to apply for the right to use the images, which, she said, would cost her more than she actually makes off the Alabama-related pastries she sells.
"If UA sues us, it will put us out of business because we are a really small mom-and-pop-type of business," she told the paper.
After the Tuscaloosa News reported the story, the university apologized to Cesar and said it would work with her so that she'd continue to be allowed to make pastries with Alabama logos.
"UA has talked to Ms. (Mary) Cesar and has apologized for the letter, which is not consistent with the protocol we normally follow for local vendors on trademark issues," Deborah M. Lane, UA assistant vice president for university relations said in a statement.
"We have assured Ms. Cesar that we will work with her to resolve this issue quickly and amicably so that she can continue to produce pastries that bear the university's marks. We will also make sure that everyone involved in the licensing process is fully aware of UA's long-standing communications practices and concerns when dealing with local merchants."
About four years ago, Cesar started selling cookies and cakes in the shape of elephants and footballs and even houndstooth hats. She'd adorn them with Alabama's famous script "A" and didn't think anything about it, especially since the university was one of her best customers.
James Aronowitz, Collegiate Licensing's associate general counsel, told the Tuscaloosa News that the group sends out several cease-and-desist letters each year and that they are working with Cesar to get this issue solved amicably. when she received the letter, Mary's Cakes & Pastries will probably have to stop making anything related to Alabama just to ensure that she's able to stay in business.
But once the story was published, there was a public outcry for the bakery and Alabama reached out to make things right.
Good for Alabama. Since the university was one of the main customers of the bakery, they made the right move to work with Cesar to come up with an agreement that was workable for everyone.