Hi there, welcome to Tshirthelpdesk.com.
My name is Gary. I have been working as a brand graphic designer for 20 years now, and here I am to share my wealth of knowledge with you. I teach people to design, market, and promote their t-shirt business.
One of the most common questions that I get would be: “How can I stop people from stealing my t-shirt designs? ”
I understand that being in the t-shirt industry, this is something that we all have to go through at some point.
I will answer your question and, it might not be the answer that you wanted to hear.
The answer is “No, you cannot stop people from stealing your design!”
The fact that anyone who has decent design skills can copy or they can hire professional designers to copy your designs.
Even though there is nothing present technically to stop/prevent people from stealing your t-shirt designs, there are some precautions that can help you to protect your t-shirt designs.
Therefore, in the next section, I am going to share an effective solution for you to protect your designs in the best way possible.
Please Note: I am not an attorney, so the following information is for anecdotal or entertainment purposes only.
Copyright your t-shirt designs.
Copyrighting gives you the legal protection just in case of the evildoers coming and stealing your artwork.
One thing that I would like to state is that most of you guys are confused between the term ‘Trademark’ and a ‘Copyright’.
Let me explain, as this is very important:
A trademark is something that protects your brand identifier. It can be a name, word phrase, or logo. It is somewhat similar to a signature.
For example: let’s suppose that your name is Bobby Ishkabible, and you want to protect your name in the t-shirt industry, which has your signature as your logo.
Now, when you trademark your signature, then no other person can come and say that he’s Bobby Ishkabible and put some t-shirts and start selling them. In this case, having a trademark will help you protect your name and identity within the t-shirt industry.
Copyrighting is something that you can use to protect your t-shirt designs.
To explain this, suppose that you have a design that is an original work of art, and it is available in a fixed and tangible form. It means that it has to be something that is drawn, painted, created or something that you can look at or touch.
Also, something that you should know is that you cannot copyright words, phrases in design, protect phrases, and words that you have to use as a trademark.
Copyrights are for protecting artwork only.
Another way to technically protect your artwork is by common law copyright.
Common law copyright is copyright protection based on the common law of various jurisdictions, other than the protection of statutory law.
It is also known as the poor man’s copyright. Which is fine, you can use this, but let’s say that if someone steals your artwork, and you take them to court, then you won’t be able to take back any damages, i.e., you might able to stop them from using your design, but you cannot recoup the money he/she made from your design.
Hence, to back the damages, you need to register your artwork with the government. You can get actual copyright from https://copyright.gov/. It is a great service ranging between $25-$55 depending on what you want to get copyrighted.
So, make it happen. Also, if all of this legal jargon seems like a bit too much for you, then it is better to go to the professionals at Legalzoom, because if you make a mistake, then you would end up wasting your money and having to do this all over again.
To conclude, I would like be the one to quote that, “You cannot stop people from stealing your designs, but you can protect your designs, and take them, and other evildoers, to the court.”