For makers of apparel, trademarking a new brand may be the single most important investment in the value of the business. Accordingly, brands like CALVIN KLEIN, CHRISTIAN DIOR, LACOSTE and RALPH LAUREN are international fixtures and worth billions of dollars.

Avoiding Ornamental Refusals

Particularly, for new designers, one common mistake is applying their brand improperly to their clothing line as ornamentation. For example, silkscreening your brand or logo onto the center of a clothing item will likely draw a rejection as mere ornamentation.

Smith Hopen logo used as decoration on a shirt (non-trademark use)
Logo is merely “decoration.”
Shirt with Smith Hopen logo on left breast
Logo used as a proper brand.

Trademark examining attorneys at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) will frequently note consumer preferences. For example, consumers recognize small designs or discrete wording as trademarks. This is particularly true if placed on the pocket or breast area of a shirt. However, consumers typically do not perceive larger designs or slogans as trademarks. This is especially true when such matter is appears in a different location on the clothing.

Smith Hopen brand tag on an article of clothing
The best place to affix a brand for apparel is on a tag at the collar or a string-connected labels to the clothing.

Branding Apparel on a Budget

Another way to quickly satisfy the USPTO requirements is to print your trademark on a sheet of clear adhesive labels. These can be purchased at any local office supply store. Stick these labels onto the shirts, pants, accessories, etc… This is what the trademark examining attorney is looking for….a direct connection to associate your trademark with the goods you are selling under the brand name.

Customer Impressions of Brand

Now that you know how to trademark clothing, remember to take every opportunity to expose your brand to the potential consumer. This helps solidify your trademark position and can increase the recognition of your brand. Remember that the quality of your tags, branding and promotion should be in alignment with the price-point of your apparel. Extremely high-end apparel requires high-end labeling.

Anton Hopen

U.S. Patent Attorney with