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Intellectual Property Protection For a Clothing Brand: How to Get Copyrights & Trademarks

Copyright and Trademarks

As an entrepreneur, it’s important to protect your intellectual property (IP). This includes your copyright and trademark protection for your clothing brand. In order to do this, you’ll need to understand the requirements, steps and costs of getting copyrights and trademarks. In this article, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to get started.


Why Should You Trademark Your Clothing Brand?

When designing a new piece of clothing or a new line of clothing, you want to be sure that no one else can copy your design. This is where trademarking your clothing brand comes in. A trademark is a sign, design, or symbol that distinguishes your brand from others in the market. It’s important to trademark your clothing brand because:

  • Trademarking supports your strong brand identity
  • Trademarking protects your brand from being copied
  • Trademarking defines your brand in the market


What Can and Can’t Be Trademarked or Copyrighted

However, it’s important to understand that not everything can be copyrighted or trademarked. For example, if you sell blank blue t-shirts, you can’t trademark the color blue. Likewise, you can’t copyright a design that’s been used before, or one that’s considered to be generic.


Copyright Protection:  

Since 1978, whatever you produce as “original” design, artwork or written words is automatically considered “copyrighted”. Your brand logo or design is, therefore, copyrighted as soon as you create and use it. However, you must register your copyright in the U.S. Copyright Office, a division of the US Library of Congress, in order to protect your brand logo, design, concept, etc. 

Any design, brand, logo or written work that is not original cannot be copyrighted. In order to be eligible for copyright protection, your design must be:

  • Original: You can’t copyright a design that’s been used before, or one that’s considered to be generic.
  • Fixed in a tangible form: The design must be physically embodied in some way to a tangible item, such as on a piece of clothing.


Trademark Protection: To be eligible for trademark protection, your design must meet certain parameters within the U.S Patent & Trademark Office. A trademark can only be applied if it is:

  • Distinctive: Your design must be unique and not confusingly similar to another brand’s trademark.
  • Used in commerce: This means that your trademark item must be in use in connection with the sale of goods or services.


So, which clothing elements are ones that can be copyrighted or trademarked ? This includes original elements such as: 

  • Original fabric pattern
  • Original graphic print
  • Original embroidery design
  • Original trim and applique design
  • Original logo
  • Original design on clothing (t-shirts, outerwear, etc)
  • Original brand name


How to Register the Copyright of Your Clothing Design

Now that you know that original work can be copyrighted, let’s take a look at the process of registering the copyright of your clothing design.

In order to register the copyright of your design, you’ll need to file a copyright application with the US Copyright Office. The copyright application must include:

  • A description of your design
  • A physical or digital copy of your design
  • Your contact information
  • The filing fee for online applications

Additional information may be required, depending on the item or design you are attempting to copyright. Once you’ve filed your copyright application, you’ll need to wait for it to be processed. This can take several months. Once your copyright is registered, you’ll receive a certificate of copyright registration.


How to Trademark Your Clothing Brand

If you want to trademark your clothing brand, you’ll need to file a trademark application with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO requires that you specify the government category (numbered) in which the trademark will be used. For clothing brands, this would typically include items like t-shirts, hats, and other clothing items. You’ll find a multi-page list of trademark designations for your review. Find the designation that fits the item you want to trademark and use that number/designation on your application.

The USPTO requires that you use your trademark in commerce before you can file a trademark application. This means that you must have used your trademark in the prior sale of goods or services. If you have not yet done so, begin using your design, brand or logo in commerce so you’ll be eligible to file for a trademark. As soon as you’ve used your trademark in commerce, you can file a trademark application online through the USPTO Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).

The USPTO requires that you pay a filing fee per class of goods and services. Application fees increase as you designate classes for trademarking. Note that your application fees will not be refunded if your design or brand is already in use and trademarked by another entity. If the USPTO research determines another design, brand or logo in use, your application will be declined.

It may take up to 12 months for a trademark application to be reviewed by the USPTO. Once your application is accepted, it will be published “for opposition”. This process is designed to give other companies the ability to object to your trademark registration. If there are no objections and no other trademarked designs or concepts such as yours, you’ll receive a certificate of registration. You will be eligible to use the ™ mark behind your design or brand name or logo going forward.



The process of copyrighting or trademarking your clothing brand, design or logo can be long and expensive. However, it’s important to understand that intellectual property protection is an important part of building a strong and successful business. If you don’t take steps to protect your brand, you could end up losing valuable rights and property.