Thinking of asking your favorite local bakery to decorate a cake in honor of your favorite local football powerhouse?

Think again.

When it comes to the Ohio State University, trademark protections extend to purchased edibles, no matter that those globs of scarlet-and-gray icing are destined to be gobbled up.

Commercial bakers aren't supposed to festoon their goods with OSU imagery unless they pay a licensing fee for approved images, or go through another vendor who is licensed and can legally supply the templates and artwork.

"We're very, very careful, because our products get photographed and put on social media," said Elaine Clarke of Schneider's Bakery in downtown Westerville. "There was a time when I called to inquire about the parameters for Block O and I got an immediate response, and it was very adamant."

Instead of paying the fee directly, Schneider's opts to use images purchased from a supplier that pays the trademarking fee, Clarke said.

She and others said they still consider "small-b" buckeyes fair game for decorating, because Ohio is, in fact, the Buckeye State.

"We'll make a cake shaped like a buckeye," said Laura Harter, owner of Piece of Cake in Columbus' Short North. She also can bake a 3D stadium-shaped cake, and a scarlet-and-gray graduation cake — all without logos.

"But as for a custom Buckeye cake, I won't touch it," said Frank Resch of Resch's Bakery on Columbus' east side. "I won't, because it's a $10,000 fine."

Still, customers regularly ask for OSU sweets, especially as college football season gets underway. Some people have suggested that the rules can be skirted if the Ohio State images are sufficiently modified. "I don't know what's legal and what's not, and I don't have the time to figure it out," Resch said, adding that he doesn't have the benefit of his own legal department.

Harter said the limitation "might be annoying, but at the same time, any major league teams have copyrights on all of their stuff."

The Original Goodie Shop in Upper Arlington decided a few years ago to work directly with Ohio State to obtain licensing for a line of baked goods, co-owner Emilie Smith said.

The bakery pays about $600 a year and gives the university 12% of sales, she said. "Every year we have to renew this, with the fee, and we have to send them every single product that we sell so that they can make sure the quality is there, and so that they can approve the design."

Ohio State recently rejected a helmet because the stripes were slightly wrong, she said. And "00" is the only jersey number allowed.

The Original Goodie Shop even has an "OSU Licensed" link on its website to tell customers this:

"We are now OFFICIALLY LICENSED to sell the following OSU branded products! This means we have a contract with The Ohio State University to reproduce these products exactly as they are featured below, and in turn, we send part of the money from each sale back to The Ohio State University. Go Bucks!"

In an emailed statement, university spokesman Ben Johnson said, "Trademark and licensing interests generate about $15 million in revenue each year to support the university's students, faculty and staff, and Buckeye fans should know that every time they purchase official Ohio State items, they are supporting student scholarships, libraries and other university initiatives."

Ohio State works with bakeries and small businesses, and routinely grants one-time use requests for wedding, birthday, anniversary cakes and other items, he said. Bakeries interested in selling OSU-themed goods are invited to contact the university, he said.

As for the goodies you're whipping up at home?

"Of course, the university does not take issue with individuals baking at home for personal use … unless it involves the team up north," Johnson said.

Clarke, of Schneider's bakery, said she's still amused by Ohio State's plan to trademark the word "The" when used in conjunction with OSU's name. "I want to make cookies this season that just have the word 'The' on them," she said.

She's glad not all colleges are so fussy. Nearby Otterbein University didn't bat an eye when bakers asked whether they could download the university's insignias, Clarke said. "They welcomed it."

Dispatch reporter Jennifer Smola contributed to this story.