The Nitty Gritty of Starting a Clothing Line Continues
In the last post I promised to talk about trademarking your brand name and logo. Before delving into the subject I want to make the disclaimer that I am not a lawyer, I am merely an entrepreneur sharing experiences.
To start off you will need to visit the USPTO website to familiarize yourself with exactly what a trademark is and why it is different from a patent or copyright. Briefly, a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design or a combination of these components that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A service mark is the same thing except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. In the clothing industry a trademark is used because goods are being protected rather than a service.
There is a page at the USPTO website that answers frequently asked questions about Trademarks and how to file the application. This a great resource and I suggest taking some time to read through it. After familiarizing yourself with the process you should conduct a search yourself using TESS to see if your brand name is already being used by someone in commerce. If you find that it is already being used you would be wise to choose another name. If your search does not produce any results this is a good sign. The likelihood that your name is already being used in commerce still exists and most professionals advise that a lawyer is consulted at this point to ensure the name is not being used.
Keep in mind that even a lawyer cannot guarantee you that 5 years down the road you will not be notified that you are being sued for the use of someone else’s name and have to forfeit the right to use it. This actually happened to a woman I know that has many years of experience advising entrenpreneurs on starting retail stores and clothing lines. She hired a lawyer to do a thorough search, the name came up clear and then some years later out of the wood work came a woman claiming ownership to the name. Rather than spend the $10,000-$20,000 to fight the lawsuit she changed her business name. The moral of the story, diligently do your homework and if it is within your budget hire a lawyer to file your trademark just so you don’t blame yourself if something happens. If hiring a lawyer is not in your budget you can file for a trademark on your own.
While searching to see if your name is being used it is also beneficial to search the name of one of your competitors or a brand that you admire. You will be able to see what classes they filed their trademark in and it gives you an idea of what a properfly filed trademark looks like. You must choose to file your trademark in a particular class of goods, clothing is class 25. Please note that within the class of clothing there are hundreds of different items. Initially I was baffled because I could not find the category “women’s sportswear” within the clothing class. Come to find out you must check off every type of garment you plan on manufacturing, such as women’s skirts, women’s vests, dresses, etc. Don’t worry, you are not charged by type of garment, only by class (the current charge is $275 per class).
Once you have selected your class of goods, you will need to provide a more detailed description of your product. You will then type in your company name and upload an image of your name and logo if desired. I chose to upload the image of my name with my logo because Self Assured is a common phrase and I wanted to trademark my specific design.
I should note here that I filed the application as an intent to use because I have not actually used my name on garments as yet. When you file an intent to use I think you have one year to submit an image of your name on a garment being used in commerce. You must also file an additional form and pay an additional fee to establish use before officially registering the mark even if the mark has been otherwise approved. Filing the intent to use form is not wasted effort, it takes 13-18 months for a trademark to be approved so if you are just starting your business it will most likely take you that long to produce a garment with your logo. If you file for a trademark once you have your garments produced you will be unprotected for at least 13-18 months while your application filters through the systmen. If you are already using your brand name you will file the application for use in commerce now and must submit an image of the name in use (ex. on garment for sale).
There are a few other steps to complete the application but they are pretty self explanatory and if you have any questions you can always send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take care and have a great day!!
Kristin, Self Assured