Trade marks for fashion
How is a trade mark different from a design?
A trade mark protects the brand or label that you use to distinguish your products from those of other designers. A design protects the overall appearance of a product such as a handbag.
What does this mean for you?
Your label is a valuable marketing tool. It is the name that customers look for and identify with when they make a purchase. They may associate your label with a particular style, image or quality. Your trade mark can become an important means of building customer loyalty, maintaining goodwill and improving your profitability.
The benefits of registering a trade mark
After so much hard work building up a label, you can't afford to have competitors launching clothing lines under deceptively similar brands. Registering your brand name as a trade mark is a good idea but it is not compulsory. If you register a business name only, it can be difficult to prevent other designers from using a similar name to yours. Although trade practices and fair trading laws may protect you against some misrepresentations, this can be a time consuming and expensive process.
If you register a trade mark, you might also be able to earn money from licensing that trade mark to another company. Many fashion brands licence their trade mark for products like perfume and accessories which they do not make themselves.
If you have a registered trade mark, you can display the ® symbol after your name or logo. Trade marks that aren't registered can only display the TM symbol.
Types of trade marks that are difficult to register
A trade mark that describes what you do can be difficult to register as your occupation is not necessarily unique.
It can be difficult to register a trade mark that is too descriptive and contains terms that other designers might want to use it to describe similar products. An example of these terms would be 'couture dresses' or 'quality footwear'.
You also wouldn't be able to register a trade mark that is misleading. A trade mark that includes the words 'hand made' when your products are mass produced could be misleading.
Many designers think that if their label uses their own name it is automatically protected. It can be difficult to register a common surname or a geographic location as a trade mark. There may be an exception to this if you can show that you have used the word as a brand for a considerable period of time.
Before selecting a trade mark you should always search the trade marks database ATMOSS and do some further research to ensure that you aren't infringing on any existing trade marks.
Last Updated: 10/12/2012