FOX43 Finds Out: Your rights when entering a contest

A Lancaster County woman says she entered a contest to create a new Oreo cookie, she didn't win, but a few years later she sees something similar on store shelves.

The #MyOreoCreation contest had more than 700,000 submissions.

Alice Ralston of Lititz says she really thought about her entry.

"My idea was called choco-moon berry and it was kind of an idea that was themed around the moon," said Ralston.

The contest by Mondelez International, which owns Oreo, asked for people to come up with a new Oreo flavor using 4 ingredients.

Ralston said, "It was a chocolate wafer, like an Oreo wafer, and it had a blackberry flavor, strawberry cream cheese and it has a glow in the dark feature.

She didn't win the contest.

Someone who submitted a  "Cherry Cola` Oreo won and got the $500,000 prize.

That was two years ago.

Then recently, the Lititz woman had a moment of deja vu.

"I bumped into this article where they said that Oreo was coming out with this new awesome flavor."

That new flavor is for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

The icing is marshmallow flavored and the packaging glows in the dark, not the cookie itself like Ralston submitted.

"I think perhaps they took my concept and massaged it a little bit and made it a little bit different," said Ralston.

She doesn`t remember reading anything that stated oreo could use her idea for future products.

FOX43 Finds Out did find the original contest rules.

And it`s there in the fine print in legal jargon.

“Each entrant authorizes the Sponsor and any entities affiliated or in privity with the Sponsor, to utilize, for eternity and in any manner they see fit, the Submission submitted to Sponsor and to make derivative works from such material. Each entrant agrees that the results and proceeds of such use shall become the property of Sponsor and/or Sponsor’s licensees, and shall be freely assignable by Sponsor and that the Promotion Parties and their assignees and licensees shall have no obligations whatsoever to entrant.”

Kevin Gold, a lawyer at Pillar Aught in Harrisburg explain in plain English what that really means.

And he says, it means Mondelez owns your contest submissions and can do what it wants with them.

"What a lot of brands will do, they`ll limit the amount of rights you have by submitting your idea to them, generally they`re going to own it or they`re going to have the right to use it without compensation and that`s your price of entry.," said Gold.

He says even if it`s a social media contest and you don`t read the rules, they still apply.

"It`s still going to be subject to whatever rules the company has set forth and you`ll probably have to click a few places to get there"

That's why he says these types of cases are hard to prove for people like Ralston..

As for the Lancaster County woman, she says she likes the new Oreo cookie

She doesn't plan to sue or anything, though say's she`ll read the terms and conditions from now on.

Mondelez Interational says Oreo already had the moon-themed Oreo in development when Ralston submitted her idea.

Gold says, when you do enter a contest that requires some creativity, be aware that most companies will likely have the right to use it, however they want.

He says if you have an idea you think is really great. posting it on social media gives you little to no rights to that material.

Instead, posting something on a website that you can prove you own is probably a better way to go.

If you have a story you want Jackie to look into, FOX43 wants to find out.

Send Jackie a message on Facebook or send an email to FOX43FindsOut@FOX43.com.

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