Copyrights and trademarks for t-shirt designs




If you’re a t-shirt designer, your ability to stand out from the competition is your greatest strength. Unfortunately, standing out does more than attract customers; it helps attract imitators who may want to use your designs to market their wares, and that’s where copyrights and trademarks come in.


Copyright and trademark rights are part of intellectual property rights, which give creators exclusive rights to their creations. This article covers the basics of copyrights and trademarks for t-shirt designs, you might want to keep reading if you’re a t-shirt designer.

Copyright for t-shirt designs

Copyright refers to the author’s exclusive right to their creative work, such as art, image, design, music, video, literal work, and design sketches. Copyright protections apply by default to the creator of the original work. However, you want to register to make it easier to prove ownership in the event of a violation.

When it comes to t-shirt designs, copyrights are used to protect the sketches used in the design. This may also apply to protect certain aspects of your brand image. For example, if you include artistic images in your designs, the images will be subject to copyright protection.

©adidas ©Gucci

Trademark protections for t-shirt design

Trademark protection applies to brand identifiers and covers logos, brand names, slogans and other identifiers. Trademark protections may apply by default on a first user basis.

However, the level of protection may not be sufficient, so the best approach is to register your credentials with the relevant authority to obtain exclusive rights over them. Exclusive rights come with the right to use the ® sign in your branding, which helps build positive brand image, and the right to sue others for violating your rights.

What you get for securing the rights to your design

The best thing about registering your copyrights and trademarks is the ease of enforcing your rights. Enforcing your rights includes suing for infringement and preventing others from using your creations. You can also get compensation if you can prove the damage resulting from the infringement.

Registering your rights also helps protect your brand identity. With copyright protections for life and 70 years after the death of the author and trademark rights for renewable terms of 10 years, you can enjoy more than a lifetime of a unique brand identity. You just need to associate it with quality products and customer experiences.

The cost of protecting your rights

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is the constitutionally mandated body responsible for registering intellectual property in Canada. So, all registrations are done through the agency by visiting their office in person, by mail or online.

As mentioned earlier, copyright protection applies by default, but registering makes it much easier to enforce your rights. Plus, you only need to register your rights once for a registration fee of $50 when registering online and $65 if you choose the mail or in-person option.

Registering your trademarks can be relatively expensive due to the steps involved and the complexity of the process, which begins with a trademark search. However, all the costs are worth it if you consider the benefits that come with it.

The trademark search process begins by searching the Canadian trademark database, followed by an online and offline search, and finally a search of the international database. If your mark is available, you apply for registration and pay the applicable registration fees.

You should expect to pay between $3,000 and $5,000, including official fees and professional fees, but you will also have to pay renewal fees every ten years.

©adidas ©Gucci

Geographical limits

Copyright and trademark protections are limited to geographic boundaries. Thus, registering your rights in Canada only provides protection in Canada.

If your market extends beyond Canada, you should consider extending your protection by registering your rights with a global IP agency such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Images from the ADIDAS X GUCCI collection – See the full story here



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