What’s in a Fashion Brand Name: Be Creative!

Naming a fashion brand can be one of the most difficult decisions a designer makes when starting a fashion business.  Ultimately, the name will be on a website, social media accounts, business cards, look books, labels, hangtags, etc.  Carelessness in choosing a name can cause designers—big or small—to end up on the wrong side of a trademark infringement cease and desist letter, or even worse, a lawsuit.

Trademark infringement is a very real thing.  If someone else in your line of business—or future line of business—is using a name, symbol, logo, or other identifier before you, in most cases, they can legally ask you to stop using the name, symbol, logo, or other identifier.  Similarly, if someone else in your line of business—or future line of business—is using a name, symbol, logo, or other identifier with which your name, symbol, logo, or other identifier causes a “likelihood of confusion,” they can legally ask you to stop using the name, symbol, logo, or other identifier.

Take for example, salon owner Chanel Jones, who opened Chanel’s Salon in Merrillville, Indiana.  Despite the fact that the salon owner’s name is Chanel, Chanel, Inc. (you know, the international high fashion house) filed a lawsuit alleging that Chanel’s Salon infringed several of its federally registered trademarks, among other allegations.  Ultimately, the parties agreed that the use of Chanel’s Salon was an infringement of Chanel, Inc.’s trademarks and Chanel Jones changed the name of her salon, putting an end to the litigation.  Without diving into the facts of this case (like how the fact that Chanel Jones’ first name is Chanel), a big take away here is that neither the size of the parties nor the distance between the markets (e.g., Indiana vs. Paris) saved the salon owner.

Before you invest—emotionally and financially—in your name, remember this:

Be Creative ·  Research  ·  Protect Yourself.

As described above, if someone else in your line of business—or future line of business—is using a name, symbol, logo, or other identifier before you, in most cases, they can legally ask you to stop using the name, symbol, logo, or other identifier.  Similarly, if someone else in your line of business—or future line of business—is using a name, symbol, logo, or other identifier with which your name, symbol, logo, or other identifier causes a “likelihood of confusion,” they can legally ask you to stop using the name, symbol, logo, or other identifier.  To mitigate risk, come up with your own name and be creative.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when picking your name:

  • Avoid using your personal name. Using your personal name in your trademark can pose challenges when seeking federal trademark protection and in licensing deals.
  • Avoid describing your product. Descriptive names (think: “Bank of America” or “Yogurt Shop”) that describe the nature of your business pose challenges when seeking federal trademark protection.
  • Avoid minimal changes to differentiate your name from a name that is already in use. Changing a few letters (e.g., adding an “S” or replacing a “y” with an “ae”), generally, is not enough.  Rearranging an order of words in a trademark, generally, is not enough.  Consult with an attorney before proceeding with a name that you think is “different enough” from a name, symbol, logo, or other identifier that is currently in use by someone else.

Elizabeth "Libby" Zinke is a Patent Attorney with Lee & Hayes PLLCFashion law is an ever emerging area of law that deals with the business problems of the fashion industry.  The area of fashion law encompasses a breadth of legal disciplines including intellectual property, business, employment, regulatory, immigration, and zoning.  Libby Zinke is an attorney at Lee & Hayes, PLLC.  Her practice focuses primarily on intellectual property procurement and enforcement.  Lee & Hayes is a full service law firm with nationally recognized corporate, litigation, and intellectual property attorneys who are well versed in addressing legal issues faced by fashion designers.

This blog post is intended for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. By reading this blog post, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the blog author. This information should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Author: Libby Zinke

Libby Zinke is an attorney at Lee & Hayes, PLLC. Her practice focuses primarily on intellectual property procurement and enforcement. Lee & Hayes is a full service law firm with nationally recognized corporate and litigation attorneys who are well versed in addressing other legal issues faced by fashion designers.

Share This Post On