How Can I Protect A Trademark For My T-shirt?

You've just developed a catchy new phrase or word that you want to protect as a trademark. Maybe you went so far to already file a trademark application and received an office action refusing your application. What went wrong?

What Can I Do To Protect The Trademark On My T-Shirt (or other clothing)?

Simply putting a phrase on a t-shirt does not convey to the world that you are using the phrase as a trademark or brand. In fact, if you try to register a phrase as a trademark and the only thing you submit as your evidence of use is a t-shirt with the phrase across the front or back, you will receive an office action denying your trademark application stating your slogan is "merely ornamental" or decorative in nature. 

After the "Slants" Ruling ...

On June 19, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the disparagement clause of the U.S. Trademark Act is facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause. These means that trademarks like the "The Slants" for musical groups and t-shirts, or "Dikes on Bikes" for videos will be able to proceed with registrations. The key is using the phrase or word as a trademark and not as ornamental or decorative. Keep reading for tips on proper use of your trademark on clothing.

Size Matters For Trademarks On Clothing

Typically the smaller and more discrete a mark is used on clothing, the more likely the U.S. Trademark Office will consider the use as a trademark. Wording or design located on the pocket or breast portion of a garment (for example, a small design of an animal) may create the commercial impression of a trademark, whereas a larger depiction of the same wording/design prominently displayed across the front of a garment may be more likely to be seen as a purely decorative or ornamental feature of the goods.

Where Can I Place My Trademark On My Clothing?

The U.S. Trademark Office will be looking for trademarks to be in the neck of shirt or the band of a pair of pants. Also, on hang-tags attached the garment or product packaging.  If you offer your goods for sale on line, then make sure to use the trademark in close relation to the cart for checkout.

Here's a document that provides examples of how to properly place your trademark on clothing.