But, if aspects of a piece of clothing can be "physically separable" from the underlying garment, you may be able to protect it. Examples include:
- A t-shirt graphic (think Ed Hardy);
- printed fabric; and
- removable lace or applique
Registering a copyright is relatively simple. All you need to do is submit a completed application, copies of the work to be registered (referred to as deposit materials) and a nonrefundable filing fee, which varies depending on how you file. It is $35 if you register electronically, $50 if you register using Form CO (paper filing with 2-D barcode-generated form) or $65 to file the old-fashion way -- on paper.
In general, if the work was created after Jan.1, 1978, the copyright lasts for 70 years after the author’s death. When there are joint authors, it is 70 years after the last author’s death. For works for hire, the copyright lasts 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.
You do not need to register your work to obtain rights, but unlike under trademark law, your work must be federally registered in order to bring a suit for infringement. There are other benefits as well.
Please remember, that there is no such thing as the 30% rule (or any percent rule). If you copy someones protected work, even if you think the company is out of business or the print is in the public domain, you might just end up being sued.
photo credit: the Copyright Symbol Webpage