Updated November 4, 2020:

You might be wondering how to patent a clothing line. Rights to creative license and enrichment gained from a clothing line are automatically assigned to the creator of the original creation or concept in the form of copyright, yet trademark is a registration of those rights in the form of a “patented” name, logo, or slogan.

The legal definition of a trademark is any unique mark, sign, symbol, or word associated with a company's clothing line products and related services. While similar to the patent of an invention, a trademark is a distinct form of intellectual property that enables a trademark owner to promote a clothing line to resellers, assenting to the terms and conditions of authorized use and maintenance of the mark's integrity.

Trademark of a clothing line also means that the owner of the trademark holds exclusive and secure rights to enrichment from designs, prints, and graphic artwork identified to be derivative of the original work. Designers or companies interested in the trademark of a clothing line can file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to register all products and services flowing from the fictitious DBA name on the application.

Federal registration of a trademark also protects the owner from the substitution of the product with counterfeit copies of the clothing line and related products bearing the same logo without a consenting contract. Record of prior trademark registration by a design house or manufacturer establishes a history of ownership. Public disclosure of intellectual property in the form of copyright, trademark, or patent stands to create investor confidence in a brand.

Why Clothing Lines Need a Trademark

If you own a clothing line, you are granted certain trademark rights automatically. For example; if you use a name, slogan, or logo on your clothes, you own the trademark rights to these marks. Essentially, a trademark is anything you use to brand your clothing, including:

  • Marks
  • Signs
  • Symbols
  • Words

When you own a trademark, you can use you this mark on your clothing however you see fit. For example, you could use your trademark in a display in your store or on your website. You may also want to display your trademark if your clothing will be featured in a fashion show. Clothing line owners also typically employ their trademarks in marketing materials.

You are not required to register your trademark at either the federal or state level, as you will be granted legal protections just by using your mark. Registering your trademark, however, can provide you with additional protections that can be beneficial if you want to grow your clothing line. As a clothing line owner, you will also own several copyrights related to your clothing, including artwork, designs, and prints.

If you want to secure a trademark for your clothing line, there are three easy solutions:

  1. Use your trademark for commercial purposes.
  2. Register your trademark with your state.
  3. Register your trademark with the USPTO.

Filing a trademark application with the USPTO will provide you with the fullest trademark protections. If your application is approved, everything related to your clothing line can be protected, including its logo and name. The best way to understand why your clothing line needs a trademark is to learn a little bit about Nike, one of the most recognizable companies in the world.

The word “Nike” has been registered as several different trademarks by the Nike corporation, the reason being, the company offers a wide range of services and goods. For instance, one of Nike's trademark registrations is for their popular shoe line, while another registration is used for their sporting goods. By registering a variety of trademarks, Nike has strong protections both domestically and internationally.

In addition to the word “Nike,” the Nike corporation has registered a trademark for the “Just Do It” phrase that brands many of its products and is commonly used in its marketing. As you can see, companies can register the same word or symbol multiple times, which allows the mark to be used for different products. The more trademarks that you are able to acquire for your clothing line, the stronger your intellectual property protections.

If you are just starting your clothing line, obtaining multiple trademarks can provide you with several enticing benefits:

  • Attract investors
  • Inspire consumer confidence
  • Improve your company's overall value

Trademarks Identify Clothing Line Garments

A trademark distinguishes a clothing line's aesthetic style as a product from the competition. If brand loyalty and trendsetting style are connected to authenticity, quality, and value, the garments of a trademarked clothing line will be not only more sought out by resellers and consumers, but also demand a higher per unit ticket price in the fashion marketplace.

Three Ways to Secure Rights to a Clothing Line

Three ways to secure rights to a clothing line are the registration of the:

  1. Fictitious DBA name of a company
  2. Creative copyright of original work
  3. Trademark

The registration of a fictitious DBA name applies to unique products, services, and processes resulting from a business operation. Creative copyright is automatically assigned a mano (“by the hand”) at the time of designer or manufacturer innovation. Trademark patents a clothing line with a company name, brand, or logo to secure ownership of the product and its transfer or sale. Registration of a trademark with the USPTO establishes a public record of trademark ownership and gives public notice to competitors of a company's rights to brand authorization.

Federal Trademark Registration

Qualification as the legal owner of a trademark requires a federal registration process involving a signed affidavit attesting to the date the name was first used as a fictitious DBA name. The date of the first use verifies that the trademark qualifies the legal owner. A drawing of the logo or mark and a sample of the garment bearing the brand must be provided as evidence of original creation. Once exclusive rights to ownership are registered, both domestic and foreign entities are prohibited from the production and sale of substitute goods and services bearing the same name. The USPTO checks trademark application against an existing database of registered marks.

Similar and Confusing Trademarks

Trademark assignment of a clothing label should avoid names similar in nomenclature or representation to existing marks. This includes logo graphics and the use of acronyms for existing trademarked labels. Failure to register a distinguishing mark may lead to reseller or consumer confusion about the specificity of a clothing line's brand value.

Clothing Line Trademarks and Copyrights

Trademark registration does not entirely protect a designer or company in the case of counterfeit production and the sale of copies of a clothing line brand. Copyright covers the artwork, designs, and patterns associated with the trademark products. Under U.S. patent law, copyright is assigned automatically at the time of original creation. A clothing line is a tangible form, and thus physical documentation of origination. The U.S. Copyright Office maintains records of existing copyrights for designs and patterns used in the creation of garments. Rules to federal trademark require that clothing line labels be sold in at least two states to qualify for a patent.

Intellectual Property

The intellectual property of a designer, design house, or garment manufacturer, a clothing brand is a branded product line and legal asset. Trademark promotes confidence in the authenticity of products associated with a clothing brand and legitimatizes investor interest in the future innovation of new designs. Rights to use trademarked products by resellers, including clothing lines, can be obtained through a formal agreement with the owner(s) of those marks.


Origination of a concept resulting in a product or service establishes the creative rights to the design. Copyright is essentially the “artist's right” to the intellectual property of the original creative material or manifestation of an idea. Material creation in the form of original artwork or design turned into manufactured products by the copyright holder, may be the basis to a trademark by a company.

Displays and Productions

The showroom or retail display of a clothing line is also an exhibition of a company brand. Inclusion of a clothing line and its branded garments as part of a store inventory, marketing, catalogue, or artistic incorporation of recognizable aspects of brand name product and their logos, requires permission by the designer or company trademark owner. Trademark owners with a record of photo imagery or audio/video recordings of clothing line products of a brand, meet the “tangible form” requirement for the right to sale or transfer.

How to Trademark a Clothing Label

When registering a clothing label for a trademark, it is important to research the USPTO database of existing brand names and logos before submitting an application for a trademark. Confirm a brand name and logo are eligible for garment products and service trademarks. Trademarks are generally only granted to companies with existing design trademarks unless a design is proven to have taken significant time and energy to create.


Registration of clothing design for a patent is more difficult than obtaining the copyright or trademark of a label. Evidencing a design as “invention” requires the design to be a functional element that needs protection. The category of “technical clothing” is an example of the unique nature of garments potentially classified as “invention,” that might be eligible for USPTO patent.

Trademark Searching and Clothing Lines, the Most Important Step

When beginning a clothing line designed for purposes of trademark or patent, it is important to prepare a business and its documentation properly for the registration process. Development of designs that meet the criteria for a patent beyond a label presents a challenge, as most garments in the marketplace are considered “fashion,” and therefore aesthetic creations not meeting patent eligibility requirements for “invention” or “process.”

Copyright of designs offers more potential, yet should be protected by trademark registration of a company name recognizable in the form of a label to adequately protect the design interests and future confidence of a clothing brand. By performing a USPTO database search of clothing line trademarks, the hassle of changing a name during the registration process will be eliminated. The USPTO trademark name database also includes international brand names registered in the United States to establish rights to ownership of a clothing label in the marketplace. Be aware that DBA and domain names do not legitimate trademarks without registration of those names as intellectual property with the USPTO.

International Rights

Foreign design companies filing a trademark application with the USPTO to do business in the US marketplace are afforded the same rights and protections as domestic companies. Registration of a brand name with the USPTO does not protect and enforce a trademark abroad. Unfortunately, trademark ownership must be established in the national or regional trade jurisdictions where a brand will be sold to ensure rights and protections. The Madrid Protocol now makes it easier to file a trademark application for EU regional sales and distribution. For more information about international rights to trademark and the Madrid Protocol, visit the World International Property Organization website.

Applications for trademark registration vary in terms of eligibility, requirements, and process, and can cost exorbitant fees without an attorney in some countries. Consult with an attorney specializing in international trade law and intellectual property to ensure that the proper protocols are used to file for trademark ownership abroad. The garment business is rife with counterfeit products and registering a clothing line for a trademark may not entirely protect a brand from exploitation. Inquire about contract measures to protect a brand and its designs and products from infringement once in circulation, including negotiation of showroom, display, and marketing agreements with vendors and third parties. Check for current rules to trademark registration in the country of intended trade.

If you're interested in protecting your trademark internationally, you should consult an experienced patent and trademark attorney. Your attorney can speak with you about the countries in which you want to seek copyright protection and help ensure you are filing your application correctly.

Some countries offer a streamlined process for obtaining trademarks and copyrights, while other countries may have a complicated and expansive system that you may have trouble navigating. Hiring a knowledgeable attorney can make expanding your intellectual property protections abroad much easier and considerably less stressful.

Obtaining trademark protection is of the utmost importance if you're thinking of launching a clothing line or starting a completely new company.

Consumers will link your trademark to every aspect of your company, including the design of your clothing. Without a strong trademark, it's nearly impossible to grow your brand. That is why applying for a trademark is the first step you need to take when releasing a new line of clothing.

You must be certain your mark is distinct so your customers will easily be able to identify your clothes from those of other manufacturers. Similarly, you must be vigilant about protecting your mark. If you allow other manufacturers to use a trademark similar to your own, your customers may become confused, and a competitor may be able to steal some of your supporters.

Choosing a trademark for your clothing line is a complicated issue. In addition to ensuring your mark is approved by the USPTO, you also must be certain your mark can be easily associated with your company. Your mark should reflect your status as a clothing manufacturer, and should also add to the aesthetic appeal of your clothing. Before you attempt to register your mark, you should spend some time researching popular clothing brand trademarks so that you can be sure your mark is strong and original.

What kind of name can I use for my clothing line?

The integrity of a brand name depends on its expression in graphical form. The USPTO grants trademarks to clothing brands with a readily identifiable name and recognizable logo. Generic names are considered difficult to protect from infringement. Enforcement of trademark ownership depends on the uniqueness of the name. Without a strong label for trademark registration, a company's clothing line assets are nothing more than an inventory of garments.

How should I use my clothing brand trademark?

Approval of a trademark registration enables a design house, or manufacturer owner of a label, to incorporate the circled “R” symbol as part of its garments and related designs, products, services, advertising, and marketing. Trademark registration is a privilege. Protect the value of the brand through a contract agreement with business partners. Display, presentation, and marketing of a clothing line should be consistent with the legitimacy of the originating concept and vision of a company.

How can I protect my clothing brand trademark?

Unlike copyright, trademark provides an added layer of legal protection controlling the use and profit from a design. A clothing line is no exception if a company relies on the uniqueness of the design and quality of a brand to foster business growth. A registered trademark provides a legal right to manage the use and proceeds from sale or transfer of goods, including brand name garments. Continued due diligence on behalf of a garment business should involve periodic searches of the USPTO trademark database to check for generic extrapolation of designs, names, logos, symbols, or images that have become associated with a brand and its products. In the case that a brand name has been infringed, file an intellectual property lawsuit to challenge and subsequently cancel any such violation. The USPTO assists registered trademark owners in filing claims against parties found to be infringing on a brand. Consult with an attorney to find out about trademark registration and legal rights and responsibilities of controlling your investment in a patented mark.

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