No one Wants to Steal your Ideas


Time to read: 5 minutes

May I be allowed a little bit of rant today? Comments like the one below sometimes wind me up. My intention in calling this blog comment out is only to be constructive and helpful ☺️

Confidentiality Blog Comment.png

The apparel industry is full of copyright lawsuits, see examples 1 and 2 from recent news. There are even entire sites dedicated to calling out copycats! To me though, it's not a big issue.

If any of the below applies to you... stop worrying about having your ideas stolen:

  • You're a startup

  • You're testing out your market

  • You have low or no sales

  • Your brand is small (< 10k followers)

Your ideas can be stolen at any time. They probably won't be though. Even if you are a successful brand with a large following, chances are small. If it happens it will be 1 design or 1 feature that gets copied. Not your whole line or brand identity.

No one wants to copy newbies, un-proven ideas or products without sales.

Let alone factories, suppliers and contractors. They are in the business of serving people like you, so it generally won’t be good business sense for them to rip you off anyway.

If you instead focus on the following, you can beat your competitors (if they ever copy you in future):

  • Execution of your design

  • Quality. Can include materials, design and fit

  • Innovation and making new & better products

  • Customer experience

  • Creating a loyal following

Focus on being the best in your market or your space. Focus on how you can help your customers the most. Focus on improving your business, your margins and your products.

Use common sense, reasonable caution and your best judgement in dealing with suppliers and factories... But there's no need to be paranoid, you'll be fine!

Only once you become the next Supreme, CDG or Prada… do you seriously need to take action steps towards protecting your intellectual property. First of all, focus on getting your message, your ideas and designs, out into the real world.




Trademarks, copyrights and patents are all forms of protection for your designs. Let’s take a quick look at what the difference is between all three:

  1. Trademarks

    Protects brands, ie your business name and logo.

  2. Copyright

    Protects intellectual property or artistic works. Owning a copyright means that you have the exclusive right to use the work. It also gives you the right to stop others from exploiting your work.

  3. Patents

    Protects inventions! Patents are only used if you’ve invented or designed something new. They are generally not suitable for fashion products.

Registering a trademark, patent, or copyright takes time and money. In most product or fashion design cases, a simple copyright designation at the bottom of your work is a great solution. This copyright notice lets viewers know that you claim copyright ownership.

Notice should look like this: (You can also use the word “Copyright” or “Copr.” in place of the ©).

© [year] by [name of owner]

This is the easiest legal way to protect your work, it takes 2 seconds to do and it doesn’t cost you any money.

Different features and functions within a design... may or may not be copyrightable. I know that regulations are slightly different in the UK than in the US. Check with your governments' copyright registration office to find out exactly which elements of a design are 'copyrightable'.

Optionally, you can register your copyrighted work as well. It's not required though.

Non-disclousure agreements can also come into play. An NDA is a legal confidentiality contract. Most apparel brands don’t use these… unless you’re a multi million dollar corporation using proprietary technology, you likely don’t need one!

This article does not constitute legal advice and of course I am not a lawyer. Please contact an experienced intellectual property attorney for specific advice.