If you are interested in developing and marketing your own clothing line, you need to ensure the intellectual property you’ve cultivated is protected against infringement. Ultimately, your goal should be to establish a recognizable brand image that attracts your target market and positions your clothing line as a leading choice. While building a brand requires a great deal of marketing and thoughtful research, you must also consider the legal nuts and bolts of establishing and protecting your brand identity.
Clothing trademarks can be difficult to navigate. The trademark registration process is notoriously complex, and it’s vital to understand how this process works and what you can expect from it. If you want to create a new branded clothing line and ensure it remains protected from infringement, you are going to need to complete this process.
There are several steps to trademarking any type of intellectual property. First, you need to create the brand image and name it. From a marketing perspective, you need to ensure the name and logo or brand image you choose is memorable and resonates with your target market. On the legal end, you need to ensure the brand image and name you’ve chosen have not been used by another intellectual property owner.
Once you have developed your brand and logo for your clothing line, you need to decide what type of products you plan to sell using your trademarked intellectual property. When you fill out your trademark application, you are going to need to provide complete, accurate, and detailed descriptions of every product you intend to sell within your clothing line.
The next phase of registering your clothing line trademark is conducting a search through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to ensure that a similar trademark doesn’t already exist. The USPTO will not approve of any trademark that is likely to be confused with an existing trademark. The USPTO provides an online database you can use to verify that your desired trademark won’t be confused with any existing trademarks. However, working with an experienced trademark attorney will make this process easier and more thorough as they often have access to trademark databases that are not available to the general public.
Once you have completed your trademark search and verified that your desired trademark isn’t already registered to another owner, you can file your application. If you already worked with a trademark attorney to conduct your USPTO trademark search, it is wise to have them assist you with completing your trademark application. Any mistakes, even minor ones, can lead to significant delays in the processing of your application and may even lead to denial.
It is important to remember that the clothing brand you want to legally protect will likely include multiple trademarks. The USPTO grants trademarks using a classification system. Depending on how your products fall within this classification system, you will likely need to register multiple trademarks for your clothing brand. Additionally, if you plan on marketing any unique color schemes or notable details with your clothing brand, you will need to trademark these things as well.
The cost of filing a trademark application can increase dramatically when you need to protect multiple uses of your branding. First, you will need to trademark your brand name. Next, you will need to trademark your brand logo that you intend to use on your clothing line. If you intend to create any unique graphics, color schemes or use specific colors in certain ways for your clothing products, you will need to trademark these intended uses as well.
It’s also vital to understand your options for your filing basis. Generally, trademark applications for consumer goods fall into one of two categories: “commercial use” and “intent to use.” A commercial use trademark indicates that you have immediate plans to market your trademarked property, and an “intent to use” trademark means that you plan on using your trademark for commercial purposes in the near future.
Ultimately, registering a clothing brand trademark can be very expensive, depending on how many marks you need to register to accomplish your goals. Working with an experienced trademark attorney may seem like it would add to the overall cost of registering your trademark, but the reality is that the right attorney will make the process much easier and may actually save you some money on the registration process. For example, if you are registering multiple marks within the same class and filing basis, you may qualify for a discounted registration fee, and your attorney can help you ensure that you qualify for these savings.
After determining how many trademarks you need to file and the filing basis for your application, you will need to determine which class applies best to your clothing line. Generally, this will be Class 25, which includes clothing, footwear, and headwear. If you intend to sell shirts and hats with your branded material, your trademarks will fall under this class. If you later decide to market new products such as handbags, umbrellas, or other items, you will need to complete trademark registration under the most appropriate trademark classes for those items.
If you intend to file an application to register your clothing brand as a trademark, you must submit a specimen to the USPTO that demonstrates how you intend to use the trademark. This can be tricky when it comes to clothing because of the USPTO’s standard on “ornamentation.” Basically, if your trademarked image is simply placed on the front of a t-shirt, the USPTO may deny the trademark application on the basis of ornamental refusal. You must provide a specimen that shows a realistic use of your trademark. For example, including the mark on the hangtag, breast pocket, or inside the neckline of the garment would be a more appropriate positioning of your trademark.
A trademark must show the source of the item bearing the trademark. The USPTO will reject the trademark application if a specimen shows merely ornamental use of a brand logo or other mark. If you want to avoid any potential issues with your specimen, it may be best to begin your trademark registration process by filing under an “intent to use” basis. You will not need to submit a trademark specimen right away under this filing basis, giving you time to consult a trademark attorney to determine the best placement of your marks on the items you intend to produce and commercialize under your trademark. If you have already received an ornamental refusal for your trademark, it is not too late to fix the issue by working with an experienced trademark attorney. They will help you determine the best placement of your mark on each specimen so you do not receive another ornamental refusal.
It is generally best to refrain from using your registered trademark as part of a design for your clothing items. The trademark should be reserved for clothing tags, product packaging, or simple, neat, and small additions to inconspicuous parts of your garments for the best chance of avoiding ornamental refusal. If you plan on using your brand logo or other trademarked images for ornamental purposes, it is still possible to do so long as you fulfill the aforementioned requirements and demonstrate the use of your trademark for identifying, not solely ornamental purposes.
The clothing market is incredibly competitive. If you intend to break into this market with a unique new brand, you need to protect your intellectual property from infringement. The best way to secure this protection is by registering your brand as an official trademark. Once you do, if any other party attempts to infringe upon your trademarked logos or other materials, you will have solid grounds to take legal action against them and prevent other parties from profiting off of your hard work and brand image.
Registering a trademark also helps you cultivate a strong brand identity, which ultimately helps you stand out in a competitive market. Anyone can produce a piece of clothing, but when the clothing you produce bears a recognizable trademark, it will become the clothing consumers want to buy over all other similar products. You can then leverage your trademark in other ways, cultivating an even stronger brand presence over time.
It is technically possible to use your trademark without registering it. Using a brand name, your logo, or a slogan in any type of commercial trade is usually enough for you to establish your ownership of the trademark without needing to register it. However, commercial use does not provide much actual legal protection. If you register your trademark at the state level, this will create a public record of your trademark and provides the general public with notice that your trademark is in use. If a competitor neglects to search for potentially confusing marks or willingly violate trademark law, your state-level registration can allow you to hold them accountable.
Ultimately, federal trademark registration through the USPTO is the best form of legal protection available for a trademark. Once you register your clothing brand as a trademark with the USPTO, you will have exclusive rights of ownership. If any party infringes on your trademark, you will have the right to take legal action against them at the federal court level. Additionally, your trademark would be included in the USPTO’s online database of registered marks, so if any other party attempts to register a confusingly similar mark, the USPTO would likely reject their application.
Technically you do not need to hire an attorney to complete the trademark registration process. However, having an experienced trademark attorney assist you with this process will make it much faster and easier for you to complete.
An experienced trademark attorney can help with the initial phases of your trademark registration process, including completion of your application forms and development of your trademark specimen. They can also perform a trademark search on your behalf to ensure that no confusingly similar marks exist. Your attorney will have access to third-party databases that can provide you with more extensive and accurate search results beyond the USPTO online database.
Your attorney will also help you identify unique challenges and opportunities you will likely face throughout the trademark registration process for your clothing brand. For example, you can bundle some trademarks you intend to register and save money on your application fees, and your attorney can also help you ensure your specimen meets all USPTO standards. In the event you encounter any kind of infringement, your trademark attorney will help you determine the best steps to take to put a stop to this behavior and protect your brand.
Trademark infringement applies to any situation in which a party attempts to use a trademark for their own purposes without the permission of the trademark owner. If you believe another party has committed any type of trademark infringement, it is vital to consult your trademark attorney to determine the best option for rectifying the situation. Typically, putting a stop to trademark infringement starts with issuing a Cease and Desist letter to the infringing party. This letter will explain the nature of the infringement and demand that the infringing party ceases use of your trademark.
In the event the infringing party does not listen to your Cease and Desist letter or has made significant profits from infringing on your trademark, you have the right to sue them in federal court if you have registered your trademark with the USPTO. Your trademark attorney can guide you through this process, and you can potentially recover lost profits and additional damages depending on the nature and extent of the infringement.
Registering a clothing brand as an official trademark is a more complex process than many people realize. If you want to have the best chance of completing this process without any major issues, it is generally best to have legal counsel on your side. If you are ready to begin the trademark registration process for your clothing line, contact Four Reasons Legal today and schedule a consultation with an experienced team of Colorado trademark attorneys.