Proper garment labeling is a legal requirement intended for consumer protection. By law, a properly labeled garment must provide consumers with basic information about (1) the business or entity who made the garment (manufacturer), (2) where the garment was made (country of origin), and (3) what items went into making the garment (fabric/fiber content). In this 3 part series (Garment Labeling 101) we will outline all the legal requirements for proper garment labeling. In part 1, we explore the RN Number.
An RN Number (or Registered Identification Number) is a number that identifies the originator of the garment (manufacturer) to consumers. The RN Number helps consumers understand which business or entity put the product into the market. The manufacturer only needs one RN number for all its different products or brands and this can be easily obtained through the Federal Trade Commission by any U.S. business that operates in the apparel industry.
Do you always need an RN Number? No. If you include your full legal business name on your garment labels, then you don’t need an RN Number. Your full legal business name is the name that appears on your official business documents such as your Fed Tax ID, invoices, and purchase orders. However, if you want to use a trademark, brand name, or designer name that is different than your official business name, then you must include an RN Number. For example, Victoria’s Secret is owned by its parent company called L Brands, and since the L Brands name is not included on any Victoria’s Secret garment labels they must include an RN Number. Another example is The Gap, Inc., which owns The Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy. In this example, since The Gap brand shares the same name as its official business name, it does not need an RN Number. However, Banana Republic and Old Navy do require one. Again, only one RN Number is required to cover multiple brands.
RN Numbers are quick and easy to obtain, and they’re free. You can apply for one online with the FTC. Applications are usually processed in three business days. Once your application is approved, your RN Number will be added to the RN Lookup Service. (It is possible to apply by mail, but that significantly increases processing time, and the FTC discourages it.)
What if I am required to use an RN number but don’t? This is not a risk worth taking. Any time you are required by Federal Law to take action it is highly advised that you follow the law. An RN Number helps consumers identify you easily and gives you flexibility in how you brand your products. When in doubt, it never hurts to use one.