How to Do a Trademark Search of Your T-Shirt Designs

How to Do a Trademark Search of Your T-Shirt Designs
While it may be difficult to search through every design on the internet, there are ways and measures to make sure the designs in your store are observing proper protocols.
While it may be difficult to search through every design on the internet, there are ways and measures to make sure the designs in your store are observing proper protocols.

So you’ve finally set up your account, have your designs uploaded, and launched your online store.

You wouldn’t want to have your new account shut down and waste months of hard work for a copyright infringement charge do you?

While you may be concerned about finding the best strategies to make tons of sales online, you should also make sure that your designs don’t violate any copyright rules.

A great trademark is appropriate, dynamic, distinctive, memorable, and unique.

Primo Angeli

Print-on-demand is quite a tricky industry since originality is difficult to prove.

You can come up with an idea that is completely your own, only to find out that the design is already uploaded in another merch store. 

While it may be difficult to search through every design on the internet, there are ways and measures to make sure the designs in your store are observing proper protocols.

When an author has gained an exclusive right to a design, copyright is granted.

Copyright works by protecting the author from anyone copying any original text, audio, video, or graphic content.

you have a copyright claim over your designs, you have exclusive access to distribute, reproduce, or display your craft for up to 70 years even after your death.

For some institutional authors, it would last up to 95 years.

a copyright logo vs a trademark with lightning symbol at the center

On the other hand, a trademark refers to a mark that is usually in the form of text or pictures, or a combination of both.

The mark designates the origin of goods to a particular brand. It works by differentiating one brand from another.

The trademark protects the origin of goods and services.

When you have a trademark on your products, you will be able to prevent others from using the same marks to reproduce your designs.

Trademark refers to the use of a mark while copyright refers to the creation of work.

While it is not required to undergo registration, there are also important benefits for those who choose to register.

How to Trademark Search Your Design’s Phrase?

It is a good practice to trademark search the phrases or sayings of your t-shirt’s designs before creating a design.

When you do this, you will spare yourself from all the time and effort that you might waste when you find out that your designs have been registered by someone else.

image of a trademark stamp with a stamped paper

The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) is where you can find the USPTO trademark registry.

Marks don’t have to be identical in order to pose a conflict. In some cases, similar marks can already be grounds for trademark infringement.

In order to be precisely sure, it is best to deal with an engaging attorney who can conduct a clearance search for your designs and give you advice on the possible risks that may entail when you adopt a mark.

  1. Create a trademark search

The first thing to do is to create a trademark search for your design.

In order to do this, visit the USPTO site.

Then head over to the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). Afterward, go to the Basic Word Mark Search (New User)

  1. Key in your design phrase

Once you see a search bar, the next thing you should do is to key in the phrase, quote, or saying that you plan to put in your t-shirt design.

you type in the phrase, records for that specific word group will appear in the results.

  1. Check the Existing Records

Once the search results show, several columns will reveal.

Not all the records that will show in the columns have approved trademarks. When

search through them, bear in mind that there is a huge difference between the serial and registration number that is designated in a mark. 

The serial number does not guarantee that the trademark will be approved.

The serial number is assigned when you apply for a trademark.

On the other hand, the registration number is placed on a mark the moment that the USPTO process is already finished.

When you are searching for a mark, find the one that has both the serial and registration number.

You also have to make sure that it is live.

Once you search through this, review to see what is under the “Goods and Services.”

Once you search through the mark under “Goods and services” and do not find any that relate to any t-shirts or products similar to your merch items, then you are good to go. 

In the event that the mark with t-shirts under goods and services has not been approved yet, you could still go ahead and upload the design with the same wording to your merch store.

However, bear in mind that once the mark gets approved in the future, you will have to take down your design to avoid violations regarding trademark.

If you fail to do this, you may risk losing your merch account.

On the other hand, the Library of Congress, is a much more complicated search option. If the work is indeed original and not copied, it does not infringe.

On the other hand, if it is just imitated from another work, then it infringes. 

Additional Trademark Search Resources for Your Merch Business

Moreover, you can conduct additional trademark research to make sure the designs in your business are protected from copyright infringement.

In most cases, having professional legal counsel is important to stay on the safe side at all times for your merch business.

The links below will show you how you can review additional information to be updated about trademark searches. 

Birds-eye view of a community desk in an office covered with laptops and notebooks of employees sitting around the table.

Merch Informer is a great tool to stay on top of the matters that concern your merch business.

There are many tutorial videos available on how you can utilize the TESS search tool.

The TESS search tool allows you to find out what quotes, phrases, and sayings are allowed to use Merch by Amazon.

Merch Informer also offers services other than the TESS search tool.

You can conduct advanced keyword research through Merch Informer so you can identify relevant keywords for your listings. 

Print Aura is also a great place to conduct an additional trademark search for your designs.

The platform has brought together legal guides with protocols that pertain to your t-shirt’s designs so you can have a deeper understanding of the legal aspect of the trademark.

The Intellectual Property Terminology by Christ McElwain on the Knowmad Law gives a detailed explanation about everything that you know regarding designs and intellectual property. 

What happens if someone copied my t-shirt design?

When you find out that someone copies your t-shirt design and infringes on your intellectual property, you can definitely do the right course of action to help you regain your right over your designs.

When someone else is profiting from your design, you can report trademark or copyright concerns to Amazon by filling out this online form on “Report Infringement.”

Let’s Wrap It Up

Just as how you always try to follow copyright rules, always be vigilant of people who will be copying your t-shirt designs and who will be infringing on your rights.

Print-on-demand platforms offer a huge marketplace for t-shirt designers and sellers.

The goal of POD sites is not to purge out users’ accounts.

Instead, they encourage a fair game within a competitive market that abides by copyright laws.


Thank you for reading, and we hope you found this useful. If you have any questions or you want to follow us for more related discussions, follow us on Twitter.

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