Thanks to the internet that has made it easier than ever to run a business online. T-shirt printing is one of those businesses that has gained popularity on the Web and with fashion jobs these days. But do you know this convenience also includes a lot of legal complexities?
Although Googling images and including these in our designs are easier than ever, but this practice is illegal. It might be concluded as a trademark or copyright infringement. When you start designing your custom sweatshirts or hoodies, you may find many legal issues that might appear confusing to you, for example, using a picture or photo for inspiration, taking a quote from the Web and so on.
Violating copyright and trademark laws can make you pay hefty fines and/or face other penalties. So, before you start your t-shirt business, here are seven legal tips that you should keep in mind.
1. Consider copyright and trademark laws
Well, one of the preliminary questions that brand owners will have to how lawfully protect their business name or how to copyright their designs. Trademark and copyright are two different terms.
Copyright means you will have the sole right to copy. Those who use your designs will give you (the copyright holder) the credit for your work. You can even make most out of it financially.
On the other hand, a trademark refers to intellectual property such as logo, name, phrase, symbol, word, or a combination of all of these. Therefore to protect your logo and brand name lawfully, you should trademark and copyright your business.
But do not think of getting them too early. Starting a business doesn’t need legal protection too soon. But it is advised if you have enough funds. And, as you grow as a brand, it becomes necessary to get copyright and trademark rights.
To learn more about how to trademark your logo and brand name, and copyright your t-shirt designs, visit the USPTO.gov website.
2. Don’t copy but create your own original design
Create a fresh and original design to stay away from trademark and copyright violations. Coming up with a design that is the creation of your mind and doesn’t look similar to others is beneficial in so many ways. Also, you will feel comfortable and take a sigh of relief that you haven’t violated copyright and trademark laws. Though it’s challenging to come up with a unique design especially when the market is filled with many, it’s not impossible. You can still find some ways to create something that’s out-of-the-box and unique at the same time. And, when you practice that, you certainly lower your chances of getting into legal trouble.
3. Consider some rules when designing your shirt
You are free to use national symbols, flags, images of political figures, others. These images and symbols do not come under copyright or trademark laws. And, you won’t face any legal issues for printing them on your shirts. However, if there is a popular picture of such things, better, you shouldn’t use it. Also, do not put famous, recognizable characters on your shirts. You can use your logo though. The same is applicable for a famous quote or a picture you got from the Web. They are okay to be used in some cases. But before you put them on your shirt, find out the source they come from and give proper credits.
If the term “Fair Use” is a fund with a picture or symbol, you can use parodies. However, make sure what you are doing and do not let your design be offensive.
4. Know the laws of using images from the Web
Without knowing the sources and having their consent, do not use any image you find on the Web. They are usually protected under copyright laws except for the ones that are royalty free. There are also some websites that allow you to use their images by giving credits.
However, if you are using generic images, you do not need to worry about the copyright laws. You can use them in some cases, for example, the image of a dog. Also, do not consider using viral images. People will recognize it easily, and you may face some troubles.
When you search an image in Google, check the usage rights. Some images are labeled for reuse with a little modification, some are labeled for general use, non-commercial use with modifications, and some are labeled for non-commercial use only. Check these rights to avoid complications later.
5. Consider laws when using famous quotes
Well, not all quotes come under legal protection. But when you use quotes of great personalities, it’s best to quote that particular person with it on your t-shirt. You can keep the typeface of credit or the person’s name in super tiny prints.
Why practice giving credits? There may come a time when the person belonging to the quote might come across your design. He/she will respect the fact that you gave them credit. It will decrease the chances of legal implications.
6. Write and sign a contract
If your business involves partners or other people, you may consider making everything official with paperwork and a contract. But before you write or sign them, learn the pros and cons of a contract first.
Also, do not sign a contract until and unless you have a clear picture of your t-shirt company’s future. In case you want to draft an agreement on your own, get some samples from the Internet. It will help you get the format good.
7. Consult an attorney
If you need something specific to be reviewed or suggested, take the help of attorneys. Their specialization is an intellectual property that will help you devise a legal strategy for your custom hoodies and t-shirt business. Do proper research before consulting an attorney as their charges may surprise you.
Copyright laws might seem challenging for you to cope with, but it is essential that you know the basic rules. You don’t want your business to get stuck in legal laws, do you? Always start smart to keep your t-shirt printing business away from any such issues.