How Do I Trademark a Clothing Brand?

How Do I Trademark a Clothing Brand?

by Brette Sember, Esq., April 2018

You've put your heart and soul into your fashion brand and it's an expression of you. Now you want to be sure no one can copy your work or profit from your creativity. The following are some legal ways to protect your brand.

How to Register a Fashion Label

You may wonder if you need to trademark or copyright your clothing line. Your company's name can be trademarked because it is a unique name and logo. A copyright, however, protects a piece of creative work or authorship and so cannot be used for a brand name.

Trademarking the name of your clothing line is a good idea because it ensures no one else can use it. Your name will remain unique and protected. If you are wondering how to patent a clothing line name, the answer is you can't. The name can be trademarked, not patented.

Steps to a Trademark

Your brand's name and logo are key in developing a distinctive identity and in protecting your work. You want to select a name for your clothing line that is unique yet speaks to you in some way. Start by searching online to make sure no one else is using the name you've chosen. Perform a general web search as well as one on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. Next, develop a unique brand logo that uses the name and incorporates a unique combination of design, font, size, and color.

Once you've settled on a name and design for the logo, you will want to trademark it with your state. Complete the application with your state and pay the fee. The state process is faster than the federal process and sets out some ownership rights for you immediately.

Next, you need to file an application for the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which entails completing a form, paying a fee, and waiting up to six months. Once it is trademarked, no one else can use that name or design.

How Do I Protect My Design?

Your clothing designs are not protected under trademark, patent, or copyright law. Because clothing is a utilitarian item—something that people use—it cannot be copyrighted. However, there may be aspects of the clothing that can be copyrighted. For example, if you design belt buckles with a unique symbol on them and that symbol has a visual function that is separate from the actual function of the buckle, that symbol can be protected by copyright law.

It is rare that a piece of clothing can be patented. Utility patents are available when the item functions in a brand new way. (Teva was able to patent their sandals because of this.) A design patent may be available for a new and unique ornamental design, such as Marine Corps camo patterns. It's also possible to copyright the fabric print you design for your clothes—the actual print itself, and not the cloth or the cut, is copyrightable.

Protecting your clothing brand from imposters will give you peace of mind and also help establish you as an up-and-comer in the fashion world.