Q: What're the steps to starting a clothing brand?
A: Congratulations on starting a new venture! I hope that it is successful.
It is good to hear that you recognize that intellectual property may be important to your business, and you are interested in protecting it so early on. You are way ahead. It is always hard for me to tell clients bad news about not being able to protect their IP because they came to me too late.
The first step is to make a business plan. What are your distribution channels? Where will the clothing be made? How much will the marketing cost? How do you comply with various federal and state regulations? How are you going to make money? How are you going to secure financing? etc.
Once you have all this put together, in writing, only then you should see an IP attorney, to investigate if you will need IP attorney services. Seeing him/her without a business plan with clear answers to business questions will only waste your time.
A: There is limited intellectual property protection available for articles of clothing. Trademark for the brand is one. Copyright might also be available under the recent Supreme Court Decision of Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands.
Mr. Mlynek is correct that your primary goal should be formulating a solid business plan, while also ensuring that you have sufficient contractual protections in place when dealing with manufacturers, distributors, designers, etc. You can protect your business ideas as trade secrets through a non-disclosure agreement, and also including what are called "work for hire" provisions when engaging contractors to help with creating clothing designs. Getting a proper NDA in place can help protect your ideas during the early stages of the business, and should not cost more than a few hundred dollars.
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