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Hmm, this maze looks familiar

While grocery shopping this evening, I happened to notice a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese that was turned around, with a familiar looking maze on the back.

While this maze may look generic to you, it looks quite recognizable to me, because I spent quite a bit of time writing software that produces mazes in this style. If you look closely, you may notice the vertices form a fibonacci spiral. It’s a pretty unique design, but, just to be sure, I bought a box, took it home, and started looking through the collection of mazes on my website. These mazes are free for you to download, but definitely not free for you to reuse, unless I grant you permission.

Looking at my website, I found the original pretty quickly. The artist took Maze #1 from Book #1 (published in 2010) of my Intermediate Mazes, and turned it 90 degrees clockwise, and altered it in a handful of spots. Despite the addition and removal of about 7 line segments, the majority of the puzzle is identical to the original. Alas, he or she forgot to ask permission to use my design! They also failed to notice my copyright notice. I can only assume that they figured I wasn’t a consumer of Kraft Macaroni & cheese, or that I would never touch the SpongeBob variety that this maze appeared on (true – I prefer the classic elbow variety, which is getting increasingly hard to find for some reason). I admit I’m not terribly proud of my biannual craving for classic Kraft Mac, but sometimes, I like to pretend I’m 8 years old again.

Here’s the two mazes side by side, just in case there was any doubt:

A helpful note to the good folks at Kraft Foods, or any other multinational conglomerates that wish to use my content without my permission: If you’re gonna steal a maze, you might want to try stealing from maze book #47, and do a horizontal swap on it before you rotate it 90 degrees. That’ll slow me down some…

UPDATE: I’ve worked things out. The story continues…

13 Responses to “Hmm, this maze looks familiar”

  1. Steven Don Says:

    Nasty and pretty obvious indeed. Closing off the opening just northeast of the starting point in your original (northwest of the knockoff starting point) does improve the maze a bit.

  2. David Says:

    You should sue. Not for money, but to make conglomerates aware of the fact that laws apply to them as well.

  3. Tonio Loewald Says:

    Very nice maze design — and it’s sad how copyright protections are nice in theory but mainly useless in practice for anyone except the large and powerful. I assume the basic trick is to build up a grid of polygonal cells based on the spiral (which gives you uniformly-ish-sized paths and nice curves) and then create the maze the usual way.

  4. Alex Thomas Says:

    Sue for $8m in damages. Scumbags

  5. Andrey Says:

    Did you call them up?

  6. Josh Says:

    Sadly, this is common practice. I’ve seen rip-offs all over in the graphic design world — apparently it’s only a problem if the client catches it. I’ve even seen logos for major events that were ripped-off from other major events happening around the same time. It’s crazy, hardly anyone does original design.

    Also, thanks for all the wonderful mazes. My daughter occasionally goes through a “maze phase” and she’s enjoyed many of yours!

  7. Steve Says:

    Please tell me there is some sort of compensation coming your way from the thief (thieves)…

  8. Evan Says:

    Have you registered with the Office? Have you contacted an Attorney?

  9. gARBHAN Says:

    its amazing they would even try such a thing

  10. Jacob Says:

    “You have wronged me … now give me free mac and cheese for life”

    Quite honestly someone at Kraft has some explaining to do. This should then be followed by some apologies.

  11. CM Says:

    Take them to small claims court for $5k. It takes very little of your time, no need for attorney and they won’t even show up, they’ll just pay — it is cheaper for them this way.

  12. Shay Says:

    so,what probably transpired is, they hired a design agency to design the packaging for them, the design agency either did it in house, or gave it to the lowest paid junior designer, who then found your mazes, saw it said free, hasn’t got a clue about anything IP related.

    what will most likely happen before the artwork gets signed over, or as part of a general contract is that the makers of the food basically indemnify themselves against this sort of thing and assign all blame and responsibility for copyright infringement against the maker etc. So you’re in effect potentially suing the little design agency who did it. I could be totally wrong, but this is how shit like this goes down.

  13. jbum Says: