You have decided you want to start a cloth making business because you are darn creative and can churn out a good number of unique clothing designs. You have brainstormed for great design ideas and you think they will sell like wild when they hit the market. Yes, it’s just normal for you to act and think like that.

But there’s something you need to worry about. I mean something that should give you sleepless nights until you find a way around it. Because it’s something that can hurt you. It’s something that can reduce your projected profits and income so badly. And it’s something that can make your business fail; even with all your great ideas. And that’s stealing of your clothing designs by the competition.

NB-: This article was culled from: “The Complete Guide to Starting a T-Shirt Business Online from Scratch.”

Only few things could be more frustrating than having someone else reap the fruits of your efforts. No one has the right to steal and use those unique clothing designs that you spent hours to come about. But if you don’t act, you are more than likely to end up a victim. I mean, you will most likely have your clothing designs stolen by your competitors. And they will make all the money you—the original owner of the ideas—should be making.

How can you protect your clothing designs from being stolen by the competition? Here are some tips you should implement:

How to Prevent Competitors from Stealing Your Clothing Designs

1. Don’t outsource (or be careful when you do)

While you may need to outsource your clothing design operations to produce enough volume and remain competitive, you need to stay clear of this option if possible. This because most stolen ideas get leaked from third-party companies where some aspects of developing the ideas have been outsourced to.

If you must outsource, use a reputable company with no track record of having leaked other businesses’ ideas in the past. Though outsourcing overseas might be a great way to drastically reduce production costs, having your designs developed by a company in a country like China—where there are almost no laws protecting intellectual property—can be a bad idea.

No, I am not saying outsourcing is an absolute no-no. In fact, it might be necessary if you don’t have the facilities to produce your clothes yourself. But if you must outsource, ensure that your designs will be well protected both within your home country and in foreign countries.

While outsourcing is a common strategy, having your designs completed in-house remains the best way to protect your clothing designs from being stolen by your competitors. But if outsourcing is the only option you have, the following tips will be of great help.

2. Use multiple factories for components and assemble elsewhere

Another great idea is to outsource your designs to multiple factories. If a clothing design you want to produce has about four different components, a brilliant idea is to outsource each component to a different company. That way, each company will produce only one component, which means they can only steal one—at most—out of four components if they attempt to do so.

After having all the components designed by the four companies involved, transfer all the components to a fifth company for assembling. This option might be somewhat costly and strenuous, but it’s one of the best ways to protect your designs from being stolen.

3. Outsource to non-industry specific factories or companies

If you outsource your designs to a company that has no customers within your industry, you will decrease the potential for design theft. Even if the company decides to copy your designs, they will not be able to sell or leak them because have no customers in your market.

For example, you can have some or all of your clothing designs developed by a company that caters to schoolbag producers (provided they can handle your design project perfectly). This way, you will have reduced chances of having your designs sold to your competitors. Why? The reason is because their customers are schoolbag producers, not clothing designers.

4. Don’t change companies too often

If you keep hopping from one company to another, you risk having your designs stolen because you will keep leaving them in many hands. The risk is particularly high if the company feels you left them in the lurch or after a hot disagreement.

5. Use smaller factories

If you are seasoned at sourcing product and dealing with factories, you can search out factories that have less experience—but that offer high quality services. Picking such a factory will reduce the chances that the company will sell your ideas to others.

As a final note, you should not forget to trademark your brand name and copyright your designs.