Collective trade marks


Collective trade marks are trade marks owned by an organisation (such as an association), whose members use them to identify themselves with a level of quality or accuracy, geographical origin, or other characteristics set by the organisation.

Collective trade marks (frequently referred to as collective marks) are exceptions to the underlying principle of trade marks in that most trade marks serve as "badges of origin" - they indicate the individual source of the goods or services. A collective trade mark, however, can be used by a variety of traders, rather than just one individual concern, provided that the trader belongs to the association.

Collective trade marks differ from certification 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.

The regulations concerning the use of the mark

National trade mark laws in some countries (such as Finland, Germany, Hungary and Switzerland) provide for the filing of the regulations as an additional requirement for registration of the collective trade mark.

The regulations shall normally specify:

  • the name and seat of the organisation,
  • information on the members authorized to use the collective trade mark, including their names, addresses and seats,
  • the conditions of membership,
  • the conditions of use of the collective trade mark,
  • the prescriptions relating to the control of the use of the collective trade mark,
  • the order of proceedings against unauthorized use of the collective trade mark.

The main purpose of the regulations is to protect consumers against misleading practices.

International treaties and collective trademarks

Many jurisdictions have been required to amend their trade mark legislation in order to accommodate the requirement of protection of collective marks under TRIPs. Art. 7 bis of the Paris Convention also requires signatories "to accept for filing and to protect collective marks belonging to associations the existence of which is not contrary to the law of the country of origin, even if such organisations do not possess an industrial or commercial establishment."


Examples of collective trade marks include

  • the "CA" device used by the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
  • the mark "CPA", used to indicate members of the Society of Certified Public Accountants.
  • the marks of various confederated lobby groups.

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