If you are about starting your own clothing line and you have not given a thought to brand trademark and copyrighting, then you are probably shooting yourself in the foot. A trademark is a very important element or requisite in every clothing business venture. Your trademark helps to differentiate your clothing brand from others in the market and it is something you must give serious consideration to when you want to start your clothing line.

If you carefully study famous, successful designers, you would see that most of them have strong designs and logo that they are synonymous with. Nike for instance is known for its swish sign logo while Christian Louboutin is known for his red soles pattern on his shoes. Designing clothes for your brand takes a lot of time, hard work and money and it wouldn’t be nice for someone to just come and steal your designs without your permission.

For your clothing line, you can trademark your brand name, your brand logo or slogan, while you can copyright your designs, patterns and any other creative input into your work to prevent unauthorized used or theft. Before I go on to tell you the steps to take to trademark and copyright your work, let me explain some relevant terms that would help you to understand how the system works.

How Trademarks, Copyrights and Property Rights Work for a Clothing Brand

Intellectual property rights are given to people to enable them use the creations of their minds exclusively. You would invest a lot of time and energy developing names, logos and designs for your clothing brand and when you come up with something unique it becomes your intellectual property and you would want to protect them. Trademarks and Copyrights are types of intellectual property rights.

  • Trademarks

Trademark as it relates to clothing designs involves registering of your brand name, logo or any special symbol that you have developed for your own brand use. For instance, Hermes uses the H sign as its brand logo and popular brands like Versace and Dolce and Gabbana have their own specific logo which they use to distinguish their products from others in the market.

  • Copyrights

As for your designs, you can secure ownership rights for your designs as you create them, however, these designs have to be unique and original.

  • Display and promotions

You would have to use pictures to display your products and you can also copyright them to prevent unauthorized use or copying. You may also obtain copyrights for your advertisements and jingles, packaging materials, product catalogues or events. So what steps should you take to protect your intellectual property from unauthorized use and theft? Here is a step by step procedure:

How to Trademark your Clothing Line Design and Brand

1. First, you have to search for a unique brand name that would stand out from other names

You may have to conduct an extensive research just to be sure that the name you choose is not already in use or too similar to another brand’s name.

2. Take your research a step further by going online to check trademark databases

To see if there is any registered trademark name that is too similar to your chosen name. You may also have to conduct a survey to see if people would not mistake your brand name for an existing trademarked name.

3. Create your own brand name and logo

This is where a marketing plan comes into play? Here is a sample clothing line marketing plan template you can use. When you have done an extensive research, you would be able to know names and symbols to avoid so that you can now create something very unique and different you should also create a logo that would match the selected name.

4. You can now start using your brand name and logo at this point

You may use them on your products as well as packaging materials. By using the trademarks, it shows that you have obtained prior trademark rights even before registration.

5. Now it’s time to register your trademark and logo

If you live in the united states, you can register at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If you are trademarking your logo, you would need to describe the logo in details when registering for trademark rights. You can submit your application along with a sample of your product bearing the name and logo and a sworn affidavit via mail or through the internet.

6. Once, you have registered and obtained trademark rights, it is your duty to prevent all forms of infringement and unauthorized use and also enforce legal rights whenever such happens.

7. Continue to renew your trademark rights every 10 years. To copyright your clothing designs, you would need to take the following steps

How to Copyright your Clothing Designs

a. Ensure that it is a unique design that is hard to create. It wouldn’t make sense to obtain copyrights for designs that can be created within five minutes without sweat. The designs you copyright should be unique and creative.

b. If you live in the US, you can visit the official website of the United States Copyright office and click on the Electronic Copyright Office Page.

c. Create a username and password on this page.

d. Log in to fill in your personal details as well as your contact information.

e. Search for the “Register a new claim” page and fill in details of your work as well as your own personal details. You would need to give a detailed description of the design you want to obtain a copyright for.

f. You would be required to pay a filing fee of $35 and also send a non-refundable copy of the design that you wish to copyright via courier or by mail or if available, you could attach a digital copy of the design to your registration form.

As you continue to design other unique pieces and you feel the need to copyright them, all you need to do is follow the steps mentioned above and pay the required registration fees. However, you have to understand that obtaining trademarks and copyrights for your designs does not fully protect you from copycats.

There is really little that you can do to stop people from copying your designs or producing a close variety of your designs. It may be easy to enforce your copyrights when you can see them but how do you enforce your rights when your work is being copied and you do not even have the faintest idea of it?

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can You Copyright A Clothing Company Name?

So certain patterns that are original works for authorship can be and should be copyrighted. Obviously, copyright protects more of the artistic patterns and artwork designs on clothing, whereas trademarks protect the name, logo, or slogan used to identify the brand of the clothing company.

  1. How Do You Copyright A Clothing Brand Name?

To trademark your brand name and logo, start by searching online to make sure no one else is using the name you have chosen. Perform a general web search as well as one on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. If someone else has already trademarked the name, that means, you will need to create a new one.

  1. Copyright, Trademark, Or Patent, Which Is Right For Your Clothing Line?

Trademark is the best for clothing line. A trademark protects a symbol, name, word, logo, or design used to represent the manufacturer of goods. A patent gives property rights to an inventor for a new product, preventing others from making an identical product.

  1. How Much Does It Cost To Trademark A Clothing Brand?

The cost to trademark a clothing is about $350 per class of goods. Depending on your brand offerings, you may need to register in multiple.

  1. Can You Patent Clothing Designs?

Yes! Clothing designs can be patented. Most of the time, you would patent the unique design of your apparel with a design patent.

  1. Do You Need A Llc For A Clothing Line?

Yes! A limited liability company (LLC) is the right choice for any serious clothing line owner.

  1. What Are The Licenses Required To Start A Clothing Business?

For a clothing business or any business to operate in the USA, the business owner would need a fire department permit, pollution control permit, sign permit, state licenses, county permits, sales tax licenses, health department permits and other related requirements.

  1. Should I Get Both A Common Character Trademark And A Specialized Character Trademark For My  Clothing Brand?

The importance of a brand name in clothing and fashion means that trademark protection is all the more important if you plan to launch a new clothing.

  1. Do You Need Both A Trademark And A Copyright For Your Store And Brand?

Yes! It is necessary. Although both copyright and trademark can protect your intellectual property, they offer different kinds of protection, as they protect different types of assets. … Copyright and trademark provide you with that kind of protection, so it is imperative that you register for both and make sure that you protect your brand.

  1. Which Trademark Class Do You Choose When Registering Your Clothing?

Choose Class 25 if you are registering a trademark for clothing, footwear, or headgear.

  1. How Much Does It Cost To Get A New Clothing Brand Trademarked?

Trademarking a logo through U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cost about $225 to $600, plus legal fees.

  1. Can Your Clothing Brand Sell Similar Looking Designs As Existing Brands Or Does It Have To Trademark All Designs?

Yes! American law doesn’t prohibit brands from copying each other. Unlike music, drama, literature, and art, fashion is not, and never has been adequately protected under American copyright law, meaning clothing designs can be duplicated and sold without permission.

  1. How Do You Protect Your Clothing Designs?

The following are the possible ways to protect your clothing designs;

  • Register a copyright for any original prints or ornamental, non-essential design features
  • If you invented the next zipper or Reebok Pump, get a Patent
  • Use a trusted manufacturer with a pristine reputation
  • Watermark designs to buyers and in your online portfolio
  1. Which Business Structure Is Right For Your Clothing Line?

A limited liability company (LLC) is the right choice for any serious clothing line owner who is looking to Protect their personal assets.

  1. Do You Need To Register A Trademark And Copyright For Your Logo Or Brand Name?

Yes! Trademark your logo to protect it from being stolen. No matter the size or the industry your company operates in, you should file for logo trademark.

  1. How Do You Protect Your Brand Name?

To protect your brand name, consider the following ways;

  • Get a Patent
  • Use IP protection
  • Trademark your brand
  • Set up Google alerts
  • Register your trademark
  • Protect your web content
  • Create a distinctive mark
  • Create an employee handbook
  1. How Do You Know If Your Brand Name Is Taken?

The best way to start is to do an internet search via numerous search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. Type your proposed brand name in to the search bar and search.

  1. Is Using A Logo Copyright?

Yes! A logo that includes artistic or design elements. That is not just the name on its own, is legally regarded as being a work of artistic creation and therefore will be protected under copyright law. Copyright protects the logo as an artistic work.

  1. How Do You Copyright A Name And Logo?

To copy copyright a name and logo! Go to the U.S. Copyright Office website. Select Electronic Copyright Registration to fill in the form (VA) online for registration of a work of Visual Arts. Name the creator of the logo and include contact information for the owner. Note! Many logos are works for hire.

  1. Do You Need To Just Buy A Llc Or Should I Also Buy A Trademark Too?

You need both. If you have already incorporated or formed an LLC for your business, you should register your trademark under the umbrella of the corporation or LLC. While the process of registering a trademark is more involved than registering a DBA, rights to your name will be enforced by both federal and state governments.

  1. If Making A Clothing Brand, Should You Go For A Trademark Right Away Or Just Wait To See If It Sells?

Generally, if you are using your logo in relation to your business and you are selling goods or services utilizing the logo, filing a trademark application should be at the top of your priority list. A copyright registration protects the distinctive nature of your logo from being copied, as though it were a piece of art. So, it is necessary to go for trademark right away.

  1. Is The Nike Logo Copyrighted?

No! Nike trademarks are trademarks owned by the leading shoe manufacturer.

  1. What Is The Difference Between A Trade Name, Trademark And Service Mark?

A trademark is identified as a word, name, device, logo, sound, color scheme, or any combination thereof that is used to identify your business’ products from another business. Trademarks are used mostly by businesses that have a variety of products that need to be identified as being made by that company.

A service mark also identifies the name, logo, device or combination thereof that identifies the services of a business. The service mark also names the origin of the service. NBC’s three-tone chime would be registered as a service mark because it represents NBC’s television service. Likewise the name of a plumbing company would be a service mark, because it represents the plumbing service.

A trade-name is a sign to identify a company and its activity, and distinguish it from others. For example, INDITEX, S.A. has registered as its trade name INDITEX, S.A. in Spain. In other words, the trade name tends to be a sign that is very much associated with what is registered in the Mercantile Register and the name of the business, and although nothing would have prevented the company from submitting ZARA for the registration as this distinctive sign, it is not a recommended strategy, as it will be explained later.

  1. Can You Patent A Shirt?

Absolutely yes! You can patent the design of your T-shirt if it is manufactured and designed in a way that makes it visually distinctive.

  1. For Creating Own Clothing And Apparel Brand And Selling Clothes Online, What Class Of Trademark Is Required, 25, 35, Or Both?

Trademark Class 25 clothing is required most.

  1. How Can You Get Permission To Use A Copyrighted Work?

The following procedures are how you can get permission to use a copyrighted work;

  • Determine if permission is needed
  • Identify the owner
  • Identify the rights needed
  • Contact the owner and negotiate whether payment is required
  • Get your permission agreement in writing
  1. How Can You Find A Brand Name That Isn’t Taken?

Use the USPTO’s free trademark database. You can search for federally registered trademarks by using the free trademark database on the USPTO’s website.

  1. Can The Owner Of A Registered Trademark Be Sued For Infringement?

Yes! An owner of a valid trademark can sue an individual or company for trademark infringement when that individual or company uses an identical or confusingly similar mark in connection with goods or services.

  1. What Can You Do If Someone Is Trying To Use Your Copyrighted Work Without Permission?

A party may seek to protect his or her copyrights against unauthorized use by filing a civil lawsuit in federal district court. If you believe that your copyright has been infringed, consult an attorney. In cases of willful infringement for profit, the U.S. Attorney may initiate a criminal investigation.

  1. Is It Illegal To Put A Nike Logo On A Shirt?

Yes! Trademarks or copyright can protect logos, and both forms of intellectual property protection restrict how others may use the logo. So, selling shirts with copyrighted images isn’t impossible, but you should never use someone else’s logos on your T-shirts or other clothing without their explicit permission.

  1. Can You Trademark Your Own Name?

To be protected as a trademark, a personal name must be used as a trademark—the name must be used as a source identifier, to distinguish the goods or services of a particular source. In addition to use as a trademark, a showing of secondary meaning is required to protect a name as a mark.

  1. How Do You Copyright Your T Shirt Design So No One Can Steal Your Designs?

The best way to avoid copyright infringement when printing t-shirts is to use original designs. Even if graphic design is not your forte, an increasing number of programs offers easy-to-use tools for creating and editing visual content. Incorporate images like national symbols, flags, coats of arms and others.

  1. What Will Happen To Me If I Get Caught Using Copyrighted Work Without Permission?

Being caught or accused of copyright infringement is a serious ordeal. A potential consequence of infringement is some hefty fines. And these fines are levied regardless of whether the infringement was intentional or not.

  1. How Do You Trademark A Name For Free?

Registering a trademark for a company name is very straightforward. Many businesses can file an application online in less than 90 minutes, without a lawyer’s help. The simplest way to register is on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Web site, www.uspto.gov.

Ajaero Tony Martins