How to Start a Clothing Brand With a Trademark & Copyrights

By Victoria McGrath

A clothing brand starts with a unique name, creative logo and catchy slogan. The brand name, logo and slogan serve as trademarks. Trademarks help identify the clothing brand's products and distinguish them from its competitors. The brand may also trademark other distinguishing features that help identify its products in the marketplace. For example, Tiffany's blue color jewelry boxes or Louboutin's red shoe soles qualify as trademark features. Other unique design elements beyond merely functional features may qualify for copyrights. A clothing brand may copyright clothing designs, patterns, artwork and other creative work. As a result, a brand often depends on both trademarks and copyrights to protect its clothing line, products and designs.

Intellectual Property

A clothing brand initially invests in the development of its intellectual property assets, including trademarks and copyrights. Trademarks specifically cover the brand name and logo associated with the clothes while copyrights generally cover all other creative design elements. For example, the clothing brand Ocean Pacific uses "OP" as its monogram logo. Both the brand name "Ocean Pacific" and logo "OP" serve as trademarks for the company's beach wear. Copyrights cover Ocean Pacific's swimsuit, board shorts and water shoe designs. A clothing brand often starts with the registration of its trademarks then registers its copyrights with the development of new designs.


A clothing brand can secure trademark ownership rights in its name and other unique identifying marks in three ways: through use in commerce, state registration and federal registration. A trademark can include any original word, sign, symbol or design. For example, the Coach leather handbag collection uses a signature "C" design. It automatically secured common law trademark rights in the C design once it used it on its handbags in commercial trade. State registration in its original state of New York provides general public notice of the trademark use. However, federal registration offers extensive national and international protections.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now


A clothing brand can also secure copyright ownership rights automatically under common law, as well as through federal registration. Any creative work secured in a tangible form may qualify for copyright protection. For example, once Ralph Lauren designers sketched the original designs for the 2012 Olympic outfits, the designs became fixed in a tangible form and the brand automatically secured copyright in the creative work. The clothing brand may also file for federal registration of the original work created by its artists, designers and print makers.

Displays and Productions

A clothing brand owns both an inventory of clothing products and an inventory of intellectual property. In addition to easily recognizable trademarks and copyrights, a brand owns copyrights in many other creative works, such as designers' sketches, t-shirt artwork, runway shows, product presentations, clothing tags, clothing displays and product catalogs. A clothing brand may capture these design elements in photo images and audio/visual recordings to meet the tangible form requirement.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now
Do I Need to Trademark My Clothing Lines?


Related articles

How Do I Correctly Format a Copyright?

A correctly formatted copyright notice on your literary, musical, dramatic or other artistic work shows the public that your work is protected, identifies you as the owner of the work, and ensures that if anyone attempts to publish your work without your permission, that person cannot claim that his infringement of your copyright was innocent.

How to Copyright a Collection

Copyright protection is automatically granted as soon as an original work of authorship is fixed in a "tangible medium of expression," such as a compact disc. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to register original works with the United States Copyright office. Unpublished works may only be registered as a "collection" if the elements of the collection are assembled in an orderly form, the elements bear a single title, the copyright claimant in all the elements and in the collection is the same, and the elements are by the same author. Published works may be published as a "collection" with the additional requirement that they were first published as a collection in the same publication.

How to Get Jewelry Copyrighted

Jewelry designers create original jewelry designs for one-of-a-kind masterpieces and signature collections. The designers own copyrights to all of their "creative works of authorship." Copyright protection covers jewelry designs as "pictorial, graphic and sculptural works." The designer owns basic copyrights in the jewelry design as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form such as a detailed drawing, the metal cast or finished piece of jewelry. The designer can register his work with the federal government for broader copyright protection. U.S. patent law might cover more technical designs.


Related articles

How to Copyright a Logo on Shirts

As established under Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, copyright promotes creativity by giving creators ...

Difference Between a Logo & Trademark

Trademarks include company names, logos, slogans and designs used to identify and distinguish a company's goods in its ...

How to Trademark a Phrase

Obtaining a trademark for a unique phrase that you intend to use to market the goods or services you sell in a business ...

How to Trademark a Tag Line

A trademark is a symbol or combination of letters or words that distinguishes the products of one seller from those of ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED