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?Intellectual Property for your Clothing Brand


What is a Intellectual Property?

It is the name given to tangible and original creations of someone’s mind. Arts, literature and even inventions fall within intellectual property. Intellectual property is a universal concept and in order for a creation of yours to be considered as such, you only have to create it. Copyrights, patents and trademarks are all a legal representation of IP, designed to protect it.

copyright (1)Copyright

It is the name given to the rights you have over a particular piece you’ve created. In order to acquire the copyrights of something, all you need to do is create it and declare it your own. In order to qualify, it needs to be tangible and original. Ideas or a tune you may have in your head are not protected by copyright, for example. If you have a really good idea for a design and don’t want anyone else to copy it, don’t share it until you’ve put it down on paper.

Public Domain

Have you ever wondered why so many publishers sell Jane Austen’s works while only one sells J.K. Rowling’s novels? That’s because the copyrights of the first have expired (or didn’t even exist to begin with. Being public domain means that it’s up for grabs for anyone to use and be creative with.


It works the same way as a copyright, but it protects a brand instead of a creation. Trademarks are legally registered elements that include names, slogans, images, colours and even sounds. They can be individual or a combination of several.

Applying for a trademark is not that expensive, the costs can go up depending on how many elements you want to protect (slogan, logo, etc…). The trademark should be included in your business plan from the very beginning.


Patents are to inventions and medicine what copyright is to arts and design. They are the most complicated and expensive way to protect your work since they can take up to five years to concede and around to apply. One of the main reasons it takes so long is because you need to prove that nobody else has already done what you’re presenting.


It is a contract between the trademark owner (licensor) and the purchaser (licensee). When it comes to intellectual property laws, a license it’s a special kind of permission given to a third party to use someone else’s intellectual property. If you want to print a famous character onto a t-shirt and sell it, you’ll have to purchase a license from whoever holds the copyright of said character.


About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!

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