Can I Copyright My Clothing Line?

May 27, 2021

This is an approximate transcript of my video Can I Copyright My Clothing Line? found on YouTube. In this blog when we talk about needing to obtain a copyright or trademark we are talking about obtaining federal registration from the US Copyright Office at copyright.gov or the United States Patent and Trademark Office at uspto.gov

Hello, good evening, and welcome! If this is your first time here my name is Adjckwc O Browne Esq. I am an attorney and the founder of Browne Law. Each Thursday I am answering questions given to me by followers on any platform. They either saw my post from a social platform or just questions that I get from friends or family. Sometimes they reach out to me via text message and this week we are answering the question – Can I get my logo and my clothing line copyrighted? So I received a text message from a friend, a young man who is looking to start a fashion line, He wanted me to explain what he needed to do to get his clothing line copyrighted. Based on the message I said you probably need a trademark but you know, give me a call to discuss it some more. So, I thought this was a good question to run through and break out the differences for folks. I can go into more depth of the difference between copyright and trademark and what its uses are, but generally speaking you want a copyright for something like works of authorship, something that you’ve written, something you’ve taken pictures of, paintings you’ve drawn, plays, musical scores,… those are the areas we generally want to use a copyright. A trademark on the other hand is like specifically more around your brand, the name of your business, it may be the name that you use in commerce for that business, logos, and a lot of other things. Those are generally the differences. So think of it in this way if you’ve written a screenplay or a course book or anything of that nature then you’re probably looking to copyright and if you on the other hand got a brand that you are putting into the market then you usually want to trademark. So, for those of you who are just joining the question I received this week was: what I needed to do to go about getting my clothing line copyrighted, including my logo and the name of my clothing line. And so, the answer is that there are avenues for copyright that apply to your clothing line but when we are talking about the name and logo you are primarily going to need a trademark. If you have a fashion line or you know anyone that is thinking about bringing some of that to market some of the things that you can copyright are: if you have a sketch of design (so remember I said works of authorship), if you’ve drawn out what your design is going to be you can submit an application to have that protected under copyright law so that no one else can take that sketch and design and then go and reproduce it at a later date. You can copyright the designs on the surface of your clothing. When that sketch becomes a screen print across the front of an article of clothing that’s unique and original that you’ve created, you can copyright that. You can also copyright the actual fabric if the fabric is woven in a certain way where it creates a unique and creative expression you can apply for a copyright for that. On the other hand, if you’ve a got fashion line and you want to protect the logo then you would you apply for a trademark for the logo. Additionally, although some people think that it’s all one trademark, you would want to then also apply for the mark’s protection of the actual name and then if you have one you want to protect the slogan. To use a pretty common example Nike is a registered trademark. The word Nike® is a brand but the Swoosh® which is an image of a check is a registered trademark. Also, just do it® is a registered trademark owned by the Nike® brand company because all of those things if you see them together or apart will bring you to the knowledge that Nike has produced this product. Whether it’s shoes, clothes, or whatever all of those things (the marks mentioned above) together or separate are indicators in the marketplace of who owns that brand and you want to protect all of that. So, if you have a clothing line in the case of this specific question, you would want to register for the same protections. Only you know if your logo is unique and distinctive. If I were to use Ralph Lauren Polo as an example there’s a man on a horse on the shirt embroidered in most cases or the teddy bear, both of those are protected under trademark because when you see that mark on a piece of clothing then you know who the brand owner is and whatever you think about that line. You may look at it and then you want to say that that’s high-quality or that it is expensive and therefore a luxury item. These are the thoughts a strong brand evokes and what you can know that by looking at it. Also, I could use as an example the LV on the Louis Vuitton® handbag. The bag itself may not be copyrighted and or trademarked (it depends on if the bag is unique or it can have a patent which is another topic) but sticking to these two areas the monogram that is on the front of the bag would be something that you could protect under trademark law. You would do this to be able to say I don’t want anyone else to be able to print this monogram across their bags. When people see this logo or in this combination this monogram, this specific stylized L and V they know what they’re getting. It indicates luxury and indicates our brand which we are protective over.

Those are the things that you want to think about. It’s as usual as I say a depends when it comes to the law. Yes, there are ways that you can and should copyright your fashion line but you may actually need a combination of both (trademark and copyright). Speaking specific to a logo and or the name of your clothing line you want to trademark it. Remember if you’ve got a slogan plus image plus name then those are three separate items that you want to register for protection, they don’t all necessarily come together. You would want to make sure that you protect each one of those items.

In recap, I talked about the symbol, the design, the slogan and I said those are all things that you would want to protect under trademark law. I also said the design elements of the monogram itself can be protected (if that’s a part of your line) If your fashion line has unique brand that you are bringing to market and you want it to be protected so like this to C C for Chanel or any of those other luxury brands where you recognize the symbol without even the full name of the brand. When you see them, you know what it is- those are things that you must register for protection.

Summary answer to the question that was sent to me can I get a copyright to protect my fashion line – yes you can but not the logo per se and not the name for those you would need to trademark. And for the other items that I talked about before so the sketches, maybe the graphic image that appears in front of or anywhere on the garment, or maybe that the way that the fabric is woven those are things that you would want to protect under copyright. When you get or if you are getting ready to undertake an endeavor to create a fashion line, that’s costly and time-consuming and it’s a lot of effort. Usually it’s passion, blood, sweat, and tears used to create that heart work that you’re putting out into the market and it is valuable. I would say always make sure that you protect what you are building and you know over here we also always say ownership is everything. Own your stuff. Don’t spend time, money, energy, your creative process and thoughts and put it out here and let someone else swipe it. I mean people will do what they will do but you want to have the recourse to have the strength of the law behind you and to have the knowledge that you have done what you needed to do. At the end of the day if your brand is a brand that grows you can sell those rights, assign those rights, or lease those rights. You can say ‘hey I give you the permission to make this new and now popping brand that I created – you can do that for the next five years’ and that in itself can be an income to you but you can’t do that without the proper registrations in either copyright or trademark. Without the proper registrations you lose a lot of value that your brand brings to the market because you don’t have that as a piece in your toolkit to negotiate with. And that is it for this evening. I hope that that was helpful I thank you all for joining and I’ll be back next week will look for questions you in the comments while I was asking Wednesday the day before so please let me know what it is that’s on your mind and I will try to share my thoughts on the topic.

Thanks, and have a good night.

A. Browne, Esq. © 2021 All Rights Reserved.

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