HSN recently launched the Cricut Cake machine, which cuts designs out of gum paste or fondant for decorating cakes. I had no idea that this seemingly innocent machine was steeped in controversy.
The vendor rep for the Cricut Cake machine is cake decorator Carrie Biggers of Carrie’s Cakes. On a recently blog entry, there were hints of the controversy:
There has been some controversy about the Cricut and the rules and regulations surrounding it, I personally am not prepared to go into all of that, (Carrie will be able to address that) however I would love to show off the beautiful cakes that have been created using the Cricut Cake.From what I could find, it appears that they might be referring to the issues professional cake decorators were having selling their cakes made using the Cricut Cake. The manufacturer, Prvo Craft, recently released an official Angel Policy authorizing the sale of “up to 10,000 completed projects annually.” However, they aren’t authorized to sell “individual, unassembled cuts.”
But that wasn’t the real controversy.
The real controversy is figuring out who exactly invented it.
Cake Designer Linda McClure, who trained Carrie Biggers to use the Cricut Cake machine, posted a long and detailed statement on her website claiming to be the original inventor of the machine’s concept and the proper techniques needed to use it.
The rumor mill and the crafting message boards were fueled with anger and accusations on both sides. In a rare move, Provo Craft posted a statement directly addressing the allegations. In response, Linda McClure posted a point-by-point rebuttal of their statement (Linda's comments in bold):
It is not typically our practice to publicly discuss private business matters, but because of the misperceptions that circulated this week on the message boards, we believe it is appropriate to share a brief statement to clarify the facts about the development of Cricut Cake.
In 2009, Linda McClure approached Provo Craft about a method of cutting gum paste, a method with which Provo Craft was already familiar and whose documented development dates as far back as 2007.
Where is the proof they were working on this? When I first presented my method, they had no idea you could use a cricut for cake decorating. They did not know what gum paste was, the product we use in cake decorating. It took me 30 minutes to figure this out on my own. I did a very intense search on the internet looking for any information about this method. I developed this method to perfection and presented this to Provo Craft.
We reached an informal agreement that provided for Ms. McClure to be compensated at fair market value for her time and consulting services as we prepared to launch Cricut Cake in 2010.
You paid me travel expenses and a fee for doing demonstrations for you at CHA. There was never an agreement for consulting services, you did send me a contract the week before CHA which I told Jon Lee I would not sign. One part of the contract was you wanted me to sign over all my copyrighted materials. I told Jon Lee I would not do that and that my attorney would look at the proposed agreement and get back with Provo Craft.
She accepted, performed certain activities, and was compensated accordingly.
That’s right, you paid travel expenses and a fee for my demos.
More recently, Provo Craft and Ms. McClure discussed the possibility of extending a formal consulting agreement. We believe that some of her requests, including both financial and non-financial terms, were unrealistic. Further, Linda was adamant that her requests were non-negotiable. As a result we chose not to enter a long term agreement with her, and unfortunately our relationship deteriorated.
Provo Craft called and talked to my attorney about his counter contract. I will not go into detail, but I did ask for an amount more in the line of the value of what they had gotten from me. I did not cut off negotiations with them. They asked for a conference call and I showed up at my attorney’s office at the appointed time. I waited there for an hour and no call came in.
Provo Craft’s initial research and development for Cricut Cake began in 2007. Since then, Provo Craft has conducted extensive market research and consulted with industry leaders, and both professional and aspiring cake decorators. We’re grateful for the valuable input and the enthusiastic support of these individuals, and we look forward to our continued relationship with them. We also hope you share our excitement for the fun possibilities that Cricut Cake will bring to creative kitchens everywhere.
Linda's entire story can be read at her website here. But these four points is what she states it all boils down to:It is my opinion that Provo Craft would not have this new product if it were not for me developing the technique and showing it to them.
1) We presented this cake decorating technique to Provo Craft
2) We were promised a non compete, non discloser agreement
3) They did not give us the agreement we asked for
4) They took my ideas, and did not give me one penny for my invention
So who's telling the truth? I’m trying my best to be objective, but I have to admit, I’m biased. My instinct is to always take the side of the little guy against the big, powerful corporation.
Although it’s a long and expensive process, Linda did apply for a patent and is awaiting approval. If she is approved, how this will affect Cricut Cake and their relationship with HSN? It will interesting to see how all of this unfolds.