Setting up Your Own Fashion Line
If you’re in the fashion industry or planning to dive in soon, you’re probably well aware that there are many moving parts when it comes to setting up your own fashion line. Not only do you need an eye-catching and characteristic logo that sets you apart from the crowd, but you’ll also need to design items that people want to buy and find exciting or useful in some capacity. First things first–what exactly are you selling? What is your niche?
Not only will you have to identify your product(s), but you’ll also have to identify your target audience. You’ll then need to develop original or unique designs, find a clothing manufacturer, develop a business plan, and settle on your brand’s name, logo, and overall direction. It might not cost much to start a clothing line, but it will take a lot of time and effort to get the ball rolling.
Protecting Your Brand Identity
The Louis Vuitton’s and Gucci’s of the world have established themselves in the saturated space of fashion not just because their product lines are desirable, but because they have built brand loyalty, distinction, and a sense of exclusivity over the years. Similarly, when someone walks down the street wearing Levi’s jeans or True Religions, their design is almost instantly recognizable. They’ve created an image people gravitate towards, and no other business has the authority to imitate their identity. Aside from unique designs, you’ll likely want to have the trademark on the tag of each article of clothing, footwear, headwear, etc.
Once you’ve reached a certain point of success within your fashion business, your products will be what everyone wants, but to get there, you’ll need to set up your fashion line the right way. This starts with ensuring that your potential buyers can identify your products quickly and intuitively.
As such, clothing lines and fashion designers should protect their brands names, slogans, and logos as early as possible if they want to keep the vision alive. As soon as you’ve fleshed out the details and are content with your name and logo design, trademark, trademark, trademark! The best strategy for trademarking is starting with the core products and services, then expanding and expanding as you create more value and a loyal customer base. The most common trademark class for fashion-related goods is Class 025, which you’ll want to mark on your application. However, educating yourself on the other trademark classes related to fashion, as well as on copyright laws in the fashion sector, is essential if you plan to grow and make your fashion line known.
So what’s the difference between copyrights and trademarks? Can’t I just copyright my clothing line and move on?
Copyrighting vs. Trademarking Your Fashion Brand
If you’re starting a fashion company, it is vital to know the difference between copyrighting and trademarking and what each intellectual property law protects. Copyrighting is crucial for protecting and owning your decorative sketches, designs, patterns, and other original artwork, whereas trademarking focuses on protecting the name of your fashion line and logo design. Your brand name, logo, slogan, and overall image are not protected by copyright. Hence, you cannot solely rely on copyrighting law to protect your business; that is where trademarking becomes key.
As aforementioned, trademarking protects your name, logo, and slogan. Think Nike’s “Just Do It” or Chanel’s intertwined C’s within their simple yet iconic logo. These are examples of valuable trademarks that distinguish a brand. When the designer of a clothing brand or a fashion company is inextricably linked to the clothing, that’s when you know you’ve created value. Brand name clothing denotes a level of quality to a customer, and that should be one of your chief business goals, from the get-go.
It is also important to note that your trademark does not protect you worldwide if you register it with the USPTO. If you plan on distributing or selling your clothing in any other country outside the United States, you are required to file a trademark application with that specific country. As your fashion business scales, you’ll need to consider trademarking your fashion line in other countries. You can obtain secure trademarks for clothing in a few ways–via commercial trade, state registration, or federal registration. State registration creates a public record of your trademark and gives the public notice that the mark is currently in use in that state, protecting things like your name and logo from being replicated.
Let’s take a look at some trademark classes you should be aware of when setting up your own fashion line, shall we?
Trademark Classes You Need to Know
Aside from Class 025, there are a few other principal trademark classes relative to starting a new apparel business. Deciding what exactly to trademark all depends on how big your clothing brand is and how wide the scope of your product is. If you’re selling nothing but clothing, you’re safe with filing your application in Class 25. However, if you plan on increasing the goods available within your fashion line, get specific with what you plan to do and what you might want to eventually sell.
Take large brands like Gucci, for example. They sell shoes, belts, sunglasses, clothing, luggage, and beyond. Their reach is vast, and they offer loads of products that must be protected. Thus, they have many trademarks in many classes to keep their intellectual property secure. Be aware that you cannot trademark a specific item of clothing, including the shape or unique design of the garment itself, which is why you might see identical styles of, say, a bag or a watch, across different brands. You may be able to patent it if it is super special, so research design patents for your clothing to see if you qualify for patent protection.
Essential fashion-related trademark classes and what they cover include:
- Class 03 perfumes
- Class 05 cosmetics
- Class 04 candles
- Class 09 sunglasses
- Class 014 for watches and jewelry
- Class 018 for bags
- Class 025 for clothing
- This is the most popular category for most fashion lines and is what the application covers for a primary clothing line. This category includes clothing, footwear, and headgear.
- Class 035 retail stores
As you can see, trademarking fashion has several layers. To keep your ideas safe, it is highly advised to avoid showcasing your ornamental and unique designs on decorative garments or clothing while in the process of trademarking your brand, to not accidentally risk the possibility of trademark infringement. Once you’re in the clear, you can market your fashion essentials like it is nobody’s business.
If you’re planning to get serious about your clothing brand, you’ll want to trademark your logo design, brand name, and slogan–if applicable–right away. No really, like right after you finish this last sentence, get down to business. If you haven’t already, decide on a trademark for your fashion business that is both strong and distinct, do a quick search to see if there is anything already in the system, and get moving with locking down your trademarks!