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.

N.B-: This article was culled from: “The Complete Guide to Starting a Clothing Line from scratch.”

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.

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

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-: 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?