A T-shirt itself is a simple design. It’s classic. When someone says “T-shirt,” you know exactly what to picture. That means if you plan to start a T-shirt company, you need a great idea to make your T-shirt truly stand out. Some distinctive design, logo, or new design will draw customers in and ensure that people recognize your brand.
Once you know what those distinct features are, however, it’s important to protect your T-shirt company with copyright and trademark registrations. Without doing so, your T-shirt designs could become as generic as the classic plain white tee.
How Copyright Law Applies To T-Shirts
Art and creative works with registered copyrights are not just protected from being replicated in the same form. Printing a famous, copyrighted painting or text from a famous copyrighted poem onto a T-shirt is still considered copyright infringement. If you want to do so, you will still need to reach out to the owner of the copyright and obtain permission. You will likely have to pay royalty fees.
Similarly, if you are the copyright holder of a particular work of art, no one else can print that on their T-shirts without your permission. If they do so, you can take legal action against them. Your copyright registration also applies to promotional and marketing material that you might create for your T-shirt company. For instance, if someone copies your blogs, your ad copy, or copyrighted images that you use on social media to promote your company, they have infringed on your copyright.
What To Trademark For Your T-Shirt Company
Trademark registration exists to protect the distinct elements of your brand — such as a distinctive brand name, logo, or slogan. For instance, Nike’s famous swooshy check mark and the “just do it” slogan are both protected under registered trademarks. Distinctive product packaging can also be trademarked.
Even a distinctive product shape can have a registered trademark, such as the classic Coca Cola bottle. Thus if your T-shirts have a unique design that sets them apart from other T-shirts, you can register that trademark, as well.
Why Copyright and Trademark Registration Matter For Your T-Shirt Company
You may have heard that you have the copyright to your creative work as soon as you create it. While this may be technically true, it doesn’t hold up very well in a copyright infringement case. Without an official copyright registration from the USPTO, it can be difficult to prove that the copyright was ever yours to begin with. Trademark registration works similarly: without it, you will be unable to defend your brand from infringement.
This means that your competition could get away with using your marketing materials, your logos, even your unique designs. They will not be able to obtain copyright or trademark registration for those elements, which means that other competitors can pick up the same elements, until your t-shirts are found in every chain clothing store. Copyright and trademark registrations allow you to remain distinctive in the market, so that you are the only one earning revenue for your ideas.
Let Garcia-Zamor help you obtain trademark and copyright registrations today. We have over two decades of combined experience in intellectual property law. We take care of the applications, as well as any research that goes into filing for copyright or trademark registration. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you protect your t-shirt company.