photo-1442406964439-e46ab8eff7c4Welcome back to our series "IP 101".Wow, we're getting close to the end of the questions. It doesn't seem like that long ago we were just started.  For this edition, we'll look at patents on clothing and trade dress, as well as more questions on  copyright and incorporation.

Can clothing be patented? Or would only the material being used be patented?

You can patent the material in terms of the unique process or materials used. Your clothing designs can be also patented as design patents. As with every type of patent, clothing patents are expensive; to avoid costly mistakes, it's best to seek help from a legal professional.

I've read about trade dress, could you talk about that a little bit and how it's different then the other things you've talked about?

Trade dress can be thought of as a 3D trademark - it’s the look and feel of your creation. One notable example of trade dress protection is Apple stores. You've undoubtedly seen them at your local mall, and likely noticed their distinctive look. Back in 2013, Apple was able to secure a trademark on its store design in order to prevent copycats. Generally speaking, whenever you notice unique design details that immediately identify its creator, that is trade dress.

When you put a year on the copyright, does it allow people to take your stuff after that date? If so, isn't it better to not put a year with it then?

Even if the date on your copyright symbol has passed (or there's no copyright symbol at all), that still doesn't entitle others to take your work without permission. The date you see is just an indicator of when the work was created. It is, however, a good practice to place a © on your work to head off those who might think it's fair game to take it.

There is another company with the same name, but it is listed as incorporated. It has no website and seems to be owned by two people in Florida. What can I do to stop them? My company is an LLC.

If a company has the same name as you, there are still many questions before you try to stop them. First, people have companies that are named one thing and operate under a different name.One example is Themis Solutions, which has the company or product Clio.  Second, are they in the same industry as you? In the same state? Also, how long have you been operating your LLC and how long have they been operating and selling under the same name? If you gather all this information, you can then talk to a legal professional to see what steps you might be able to take.

Join for Free Business Risk Assessment