How To Patent a T-shirt

Getting a t-shirt patent is a process that requires good research, proper record keeping, time and money.

1) Figure out what exactly needs to be protected.  Instead of a patent, you may need a trademark or a copyright for your design or logo.

2)  Choose the correct patent type. You will need to research patent laws in individual countries. In the US, there are two main ways to patent a t-shirt: the utility patent and the design patent. The utility patent will protect any functional improvements of the t-shirt -for example, a t-shirt that has fire retardant features.  The design patent protects improved surfaces, and any ornamental changes to the t-shirt. It is used for original work not protected under copyright or trademark. For example, if you invented the hologram t-shirt,that would be covered by the design patent.

3) Collect all documents that make your case. Do your research to see if there are any similar patents pending or approved.  Start on the internet, with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (or USPTO) Web database; you should also look through international databases. Check industry journals as well. The more through you are with your search, the better you will be at articulating your invention's special features and making the case for your patent.

4) Check patent laws from other countries to figure out your approach. Consider whether it makes sense from a business standpoint to file a t-shirt patent. You may want to check fashion trade shows, t-shirt manufacturing companies, and retail stores to gauge interest.

5) Figure out whether you'll need a lawyer. Using a patent lawyer adds to costs but cuts down on the time it takes to file a t-shirt patent, and eliminates possible mistakes a novice might make. Look for a lawyer with experience in the garment manufacturing or retail industry. Ask around at fashion or fabric trade shows.

5) All patent applications require different things; the basic elements are a description and a claim. If you were to patent a t-shirt with fire retardant features, the description would include a background of the t-shirt industry relevant to your invention, how your t-shirt differs from similar patents, and drawings to illustrate your claim.  The claim, depending on the application, is composed of a sentence or sentences that define exactly what your invention is. You need to be careful and clear in your wording, as this can affect your t-shirt patent.

6) The fees required to patent a t-shirt are determined by where you file, and what type of patent you need. Visit the USPTO web site for more information.


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