The difference between copyright and trademark isn’t always obvious, but the distinction matters here.
Both are ways of protecting intellectual property, but copyright generally protects “original works of authorship” like a book, song or poem. A trademark covers the right of such things as brands, titles and logos. In your case, establishing and protecting the brand name of your clothing company is clearly a trademark issue.
There are plenty of low-cost ways of accomplishing this, none of which even require a lawyer. Do-it-yourself legal sites like LegalZoom or Nolo can be great resources for registering a trademark. The do-it-yourself cost ranges from $150 or so for a basic package to around $400 for more bells and whistles.
LegalZoom, for example, will search the federal trademark database for direct conflicts — if you try to give your clothing company a name another clothing company has already trademarked, your application will be rejected — and perform a comprehensive state and common-law search.
Absent conflicts, you, a lawyer or a legal service will prepare a federal trademark application and file it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The USPTO Web site has a wealth of information, including an extensive FAQ section and a fee schedule if you choose to file directly on your own.
Registering your trademark is only the start of defending your corporate name. For your rights to a trademark to continue, you have to use it, protect it against infringers, and renew it. The history of brand names is littered with aspirins, cellophane and crock-pots — all former trademarks that lost their protection because their use became generic.
Photo by patentlawny.
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