Question: Can a trademark protect you from a foreign company stealing your ideas or designs?
A trademark doesn’t prevent someone from creating a knockoff of your design, since the design is not protected by trademark. Trademark merely protects the name of your company/product/brand or your logo (or both) depending on what kind of trademark you have (it can also protect packaging and taglines). So, how do you protect your ideas or designs?
One way is through copyright. In this country, copyright is automatic as soon as you create something original. But you don’t have full protection and the ability to stop others from stealing or borrowing from your ideas without a registered trademark (state or federal). If you have a website that enables people from all over the country to buy from you, then you will want a federal trademark. A federally registered copyright will protect anything you design or create that is original and is put in some tangible form (like written work, music, audio, art, photographs, videos/film, architectural drawings, maps, etc..). If you have a unique system or design to anything in your business, get the work product that reflects that protected by copyright and you will be able to prevent others from using your ideas and designs for their own profit. You can get more information on getting a copyright here: http://www.copyright.gov
One note (which applies to the forum comment and to my own company, Grace & Game): It is very difficult to get a copyright in clothing/apparel design because of the utilitarian nature of clothing (if something is useful, it is not appropriate for copyright, which protects design and originality).
This isn’t applicable to most clothing designs, but for anything else, you might be able to get a design patent. Something to look into if your design is truly unique and novel.