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Legally, what do I need to do in order to start a clothing company and protect our designs?

Me and some of my friends have want to start selling some shirts and hoodies locally to see if people are interested in our product. What do I need to do in order to make our idea an official business/company? How do we make sure people don’t steal our designs and sell them for their own? What do I need to know in order to sell our products legally?
If you plan on starting small and incorporating a business that operates primarily within your state, speak with an attorney in your state who can assist you with your state's incorporation procedures.

To protect your branding, the most sure-fire way of hanging on to your intellectual property is by trademarking your brand. Speak to an intellectual property/trademark specialist about how best to protect your designs, and in the meantime, read what the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov) suggests concerning intellectual property protection.

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