You Cannot Register a T-Shirt Design

March 15, 2021 | Written By Erin Darden

T-Shirt Design

If you have a t-shirt business, you probably have different graphics on the shirts, and 9 times out of 10, one of those graphics is your business name or logo, am I right?

So often, people come to me wanting to register their trademark in connection with their t-shirts and show me a picture of their shirts with their business name or logo. But guess what? THIS DOESN’T WORK! I know what you’re thinking, “huh”??

A trademark identifies your business as the source of the goods and distinguishes your goods from those of another business. Having your logo or business name on the shirt doesn’t necessarily identify your company as the source of the good. Here is an example.

For the purpose of this example let’s say the name of your t-shirt business is Besties, LLC. and this is your logo (this was made just for this example) that you want to register with the USPTO.


You put your logo on a shirt because that is the logical thing to do. (this is what people usually show me)

shirt with logo

Yes, having your name and logo on a shirt could let consumers know the shirt came from your business if they are familiar with your business. But what if they aren’t? What if they have never heard of you or your business but they found your product online and loved it?

You have been scaling your business and add different designs. So, let’s change the shirt design. What if this another shirt that you make?


If a customer sees this shirt, will they still know this shirt came from your business? Probably not. Why, because this is a graphic and doesn’t identify your company as the source of this good. It’s the same thing when you put your business name or logo on the shirt. It is considered a graphic or decoration and doesn’t identify your business as the source of the good.

So, how do you let consumers know this shirt came from your quality t-shirt company rather than a poor-quality company? By putting your business name and/or logo on a hangtag, the tag of the back of the shirt or packaging. That way, no matter what the graphic is, consumers will know your business produced the shirt.


What happens if you only have your business name and/or logo on the front of the shirt?

Your application will be refused! This is actually one of the most common refusals issued by the USPTO when examining trademark applications by t-shirt designers and applicants trying to register decorative designs.

So, if you have a t-shirt business and you are ready to register your trademark, make sure you are using your business name and/or logo to identify your business as the source of a good (hangtag, inside shirt label, packaging) and not just as decoration. You should have this done before contacting me to register your trademark. That will speed up the process of preparing and filing your application.

To schedule a consultation, send me an email at

This article does not create an attorney-client relationship. It does not constitute legal advice and is provided for informational purposes, only. In no way does this document guarantee the registration of your mark. I, nor any law firm in connection to which I offer legal services, are not liable for any actions taken based on this document. For specific advice, please schedule a consultation.

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