How do I trademark a T-shirt design?

UPDATED: Jun 13, 2011

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How do I trademark a T-shirt design?

I own an on-line shirt company. We design and sell our own designs. How do I protect myself from people stealing our designs?

Asked on June 13, 2011 under Business Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Asserting that you have trademark--i.e. putting the "TM" symbol next to the design--will itself protect the design, assuming that the design is trademarkable in the first place. (*When* something is trademarkable is a law school course in itself; the VERY short, oversimplified answer is the design must not be trademarked already or too close to something already trademarked and must be sufficiently original.)  For more protection, you can register the mark with the patent and trademark office, after which you can put the "R" in a circle next to the design and get more compensation if anyone does infringe. You may also be entitled some protection under copyright law.

Given that your business will be based on intellectual property--the designs--its worthwhile consulting with an intellectual property attorney to see what you can protect, and how best to protect it. Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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