If you are looking for Happy Cakes by Renee or Happy Cakes Bakes you found her! I am now Renee Conner Cake Design… My rebranding happened quickly, quietly and not exactly by choice. I have debated whether or not to tell my “saga” or just move on. I’ve decided that my experience is an important lesson in business and perhaps I can help another business owner from having to go through this. So, if you’ve stumbled upon my new blog and are curious about what happened to my Happy Cakes by Renee brand, please read on. If you are looking for fun baking projects, recipes or pretty cake pictures, stay tuned, I’ve go a lot to catch up on!
I started my business as Happy Cakes by Renee in 2011. I thought I was doing everything by the book… I checked my local Health Department regulations and learned I could not operate out of my home in the city I was living in. I found a commercial kitchen to rent. Got licensed. Registered my business with the state. Called to find out what my tax obligations are (we don’t have sales tax in NH and my cakes don’t qualify for the meals & rooms tax). Got an EIN. Purchased my domain and then I was up and running. I thought that was good. There were no other “Happy Cakes by Renee” businesses.
Fast forward to earlier in 2015, I’m chugging along, working on cake orders, developing my YouTube channel, and I had filmed several lessons for SugarEd Productions Online Cake School. On a Saturday in April, I was meeting with some business partners as we were developing a joint side business and logged on to my Pages Manager app on my phone, really to check on something for this other business. But, what popped up was a message from Facebook that there was a Trademark Violation claim against my Happy Cakes by Renee pages. Initially, I thought the claim was against a photo because it was my profile picture that was showing next to the message… But when I tried to log on to my page to look into the claim I realized that my entire page was gone! The trademark violation claim wasn’t against a picture. Someone owns a trademark to “Happy Cake”. My heart sank… I immediately filed my appeal. Within a few hours I received the notification that my appeal was denied and they would not restore my page. I was absolutely devastated. Honestly, I went home from my meeting and cried. I had worked so hard to build my business and gain the following I had. If I was going to have to start over I don’t know if I could do it again. I had my first SugarEd class coming out, I had YouTube videos to post, I had cake consultations booked and working to book my orders for the 2015 season. If anyone was trying to find me on FB, it would appear that I had simply closed down.
I was furious… I was not give the chance to rename my pages… it was simply gone. I tried emailing the person who filed the claim and was initially ignored. The person who owns the trademark does not sell custom cakes, is located clear across the country and my name was not simply “Happy Cake” it was “Happy Cakes by Renee” in my opinion it should have been different enough and we were not competitors. No one looking for his product would be confused by mine! I spent the next couple of days consulting with a lawyer who a friend was doing some work for, another friend who works in the US patent office, and pretty much anyone who would offer an opinion or advice.
It was really getting to me that there are SO many other “Happy Cake” businesses that seemed to be un-targeted. It seems like such a common phrase that it should be generic enough not to qualify for trademark. I found another “Happy Cake” business who was fairly popular and since I could not find a FB page for them, assumed that they had been shut down as well. I reached out to the owner of that business and indeed they had been battling this for months. They did hire a lawyer and ultimately were going to change their business name.
So, instead of spending the money & time trying to fight it, I had resolved to change my name. I had drafted an email to the Trademark Owner asking to strike a deal I would change my name if he would tell Facebook to restore my page. I didn’t send it, when I send big important correspondence I tend to write it, then sit on it for a little while, especially if it’s an emotional subject for me. But, later, while in the car I received a phone call from the Trademark Owner… and he proposed the same deal and additionally if I changed my business name he would not go after my YouTube channel, so I accepted.
Then came the difficult task of coming up with a new name… and quickly! Happy Cakes by Renee had special meaning to me. Before I even thought about cake decorating as a serious hobby, I made my nephew’s 1st birthday cake. From then on every cake I made (or any dessert really) for any reason he called a Happy Cake and it stuck. I struggled by finally just settled on Renee Conner Cake Design… simple, still has my name in it and hopefully is a representation of the sophisticated cakes I tend to sell in my cake business. My logo and new site are a work in progress… still not 100% satisfied with either, but we’re getting there.
So, my lesson to everyone, and the reason I am writing this post… When naming your business, make sure you add “check for trademarks” to the list of things to do! You can search at the US Patent Office Website. Also, trademark you business name to protect yourself from possible future trademark issues!
It was a very stressful and upsetting few months while I’ve worked to sort this out. And a lot of scrambling to re-watermark all of my photos and hopefully people have noticed the quiet change. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it on social media. So, now that I’ve gotten this out of my way… stay tuned for future posts which will be back to the fun of baking and decorating!