Can I Trademark Clothing Design?

No, you cannot trademark a clothing design. Since clothing designs are the blueprints for clothing products, you can't trademark them. However, the trademark application process offers legal protection for more than just the physical product itself. There are several ways to protect your clothing brand.

This information was provided by our founding attorney, Xavier Morales, Esq. 

Why Can't I Trademark a Clothing Design?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) allows you to trademark things that distinguish your company and its products/services, as well as differentiate you from a competitor. Because fashion designs are essentially instructions for assembling clothing, it isn't a strong enough way to identify yourself as a business or from your competitors. The most common types of trademarks for doing so are trademarking names, logos, and slogans.

Trademarking Your Clothing Brand

If you are considering starting a clothing business, you should trademark your brand name and logo.

Trademarking your brand name, logo, and slogan will prevent any competitors from misappropriating the branding features of your clothing line. They will prevent them from using the same or a similar name or logo. This will ensure your trademark rights are secure.

This is especially relevant for a clothing brand trademark because it helps establish a unique identity for your company and mark, protecting it against infringement.

What Else Can You Trademark?

Trademarks include words, symbols, designs, and pictures that identify your clothing brand. Therefore you can trademark not only your brand name, logo, and slogan, but you could also potentially protect your name as a fashion designer, packaging designs, lines of clothing, and other imagery that distinguish your products.

Some examples include, Levi's 501 jeans is a trademark for that particular line of jeans from the brand. Adidas has several logos associated with the brand to distinguish its different fashion lines. The logo with the three gradual stripes on a slope is used for its Adidas Performance range, while the leaf design with three stripes cutting across it is used for its Adidas Originals collection. Nike has trademarked its very recognizable slogan of "Just Do It", and there are several fashion designers that have trademarked their names such as Hugo Boss or Vera Wang.

If you're looking to associate a particular color with your fashion brand, as many corporations have, it is possible to trademark a particular color - Tiffany has trademarked its distinct shade of blue and UPS has protected its brown branding, but this can be incredibly difficult. However, you can trademark a color as part of your brand or service, as long as it works as a source of brand identification. For example, Burberry is associated with beige while Chanel uses black as part of its branding. It wouldn't protect a competitor from using the same color but could help customers identify your clothing brand more easily.

So while it may be disappointing to learn you cannot trademark your clothing design, there are several other elements of your fashion brand that you can protect. Then if you build a strong enough brand for your clothing range, any items that have a distinguishable design feature will be heavily associated with your brand identity.

Is There Any Way To Protect my Clothing Design?

It can be frustrating to learn that original artwork can automatically apply for copyright, however, Congress does not cover the artistic creations of fashion design within this category because they are considered useful articles.

If you do wish to protect the particular look of a piece of clothing, you may wish to pursue a design patent. Design patents can be granted to protect the non-functional aspects of a particular garment, such as physical appearance. Designers and fashion designers may find this pathway beneficial for unique design elements. If the article of clothing performs a specific function (aside from being an article of clothing) then it is possible that you could apply for a utility patent. This would also protect competitors from creating clothing with the same design, but it must be a unique design feature to warrant a design patent.

Is a Trademark Worth it in the Fashion Industry?

For those in the clothing company sector, understanding trademark classes and the specifics of trademark law can be beneficial. Federal registration provides a clear advantage, as federal trademark registration ensures nationwide legal protection. Not only will a trademark help bolster the image and reputation of your brand with your customers but it will also prevent competitors from using any similar wording or imagery on their products.

How to Trademark a Clothing Brand

When applying for a clothing trademark, you must ensure that no one else in the industry has the same or a similar name to the one you wish to use. Though you can do a Google search for this, you're better off conducting a comprehensive trademark search through an online database. It is crucial to conduct this search before registering a trademark to ensure your chosen mark is not already in use. This step can save you significant costs and effort by avoiding potential legal challenges.

Trademark registration with the Trademark Office ensures you become the recognized trademark owner, granting you exclusive rights to use the mark on your products, branding,  product packaging, and in connection with your services offered.

The trademark registration process, including filing and filing fee considerations, can be navigated with the help of an experienced trademark attorney. Such an attorney can advise on how to develop a strong trademark that meets federal trademark criteria and how to secure trademark protection that aligns with your business strategy.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any other questions regarding trademarking the branding aspects of a clothing line. Our experienced trademark attorney would be glad to answer any questions that you might have, including those about the trademark registration process, federal trademark registration, or how to best secure trademark protection for your unique clothing company.

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About the Author

Xavier Morales, Esq.

Mr. Morales founded his trademark law practice in January 2007 with the goal of providing intellectual property expertise to entrepreneurs and businesses around the country. Since then, he has filed more than 6,000 trademarks with the USPTO. You can learn more about Xavier here.

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