A certification mark is a type of trademark whereby a trader uses the mark to indicate the origin, material, mode of manufacture of products, mode of performance of services, quality, accuracy of other characteristics of products or services. They are generally used by industrial standards bodies to demonstrate that a product or service meets a certain standard.
Certification marks distinguished from other marks
The essential function of a "standard" or "ordinary" trademark is to serve as a "badge of origin" which distinguishes the products or services of one trade mark owner from the products or services of another. In this way a standard trademark is used to indicate that the commercial origin of a product or service lays with a particular business.
By comparison, the essential function of a certification mark is to indicate that products or services meet a certain specific qualities or characteristics.
Certification marks differ from collective trade marks. The main difference is that collective trade marks may be used by particular members of the organisation which owns them, while certification marks may be used by anybody who complies with the standards defined by the owner of the particular certification mark.
For various reasons, usually relating to technical issues, certification marks are difficult to register, especially in relation to services. One practical workaround for trade mark owners is to register the mark as an ordinary trade mark in relation to quality control and similar services.
Certification marks can be owned by independent companies absolutely unrelated in ownership to the companies, offering goods or rendering services under the particular certification mark.
Regulations concerning the use of certification marks
Trade mark laws in countries which provide for the filing of applications to register certificate marks also usually require the submission of regulations which set out a number of matters, including:
- the people authorised to use the certification mark
- the characteristics to be certified by the certification mark
- how the certifying or standards tests these characteristics and supervises the use of the mark
- dispute resolution procedures
The main purpose of the regulations is to protect consumers against misleading practices.
Examples of certification marks
Examples of certification marks include:
Underwriters Laboratories holds a service mark on the phrase "UL Listed," and allows manufacturers of electrical equipment to use the service mark only if they have been approved by UL. This lets consumers identify products that meet quality criteria set by a company other than the manufacturer.
The "Woolmark" certification mark, used to identify goods which contain wool;
- the "Champagne" certification mark, used to indicate goods which have an appellation of origin of the Champagne region in France;
- the Bureau Veritas certification mark, used to indicate, for example, sea-worthiness of ships.
- (U in a full circle), the hechsher of the Orthodox Union.
International treaties and certification marks
Many jurisdictions have been required to amend their trade mark legislation in order to accommodate the requirement of protection of certification marks under TRIPs.
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