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Do I need to license the right to use well known catch phrases for my clothing designs?

Novato, CA |
Filed under: Trademarks Business

i'm in the process of starting my own clothing line and have some ideas for designs.Alot of my desings will have well know qoutes, such as:
"Clock Work"
"Catch 22"
"The Constitution"
Can i still have these designs on my shirts, or would i still have to get approval?

"catch 22" is the one that i really want to have on my shirts, but someone told me its not ok, I though that phrase is a public statement, or old saying?

Attorney Answers 2


The term "Catch 22" as you know is the title of a book. The copyright protection for a book is the author's lifetime plus 70 years, I believe. I do not think that time has yet run. There are many things that people say, of course, that do not violate copyright law because they are verbal. Copyright law protects things that are put down in some form, e.g., in writing.

The others you mention appear to be generic enough that they probably are not protected nor are they protectable. Catch 22 though is one you should investigate, and see if you can get permission to use it.

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Clothing and other commercial products placed in the stream of commerce are protected under Trademark law, not copyright law, so the question is whether there is a trademark in the class you want to register. Check with the for availability.
You can have any original designs on the shirts you want. The designs will be protected under copyright law, and the brand under trademark law.

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