Users of certification marks typically apply them to goods and services in a manner similar to trademarks and service marks. That is, certification marks appear on labels, tags, or packaging for goods, or on materials used in the advertising or rendering of services. Thus, specimens of use in certification mark applications generally are examined using the same standards that apply to specimens for trademarks and service marks. See TMEP §§904–904.07(b)(i). However, because it is improper for certification marks to be used by their owners, any specimen of use submitted in support of a certification mark application must show use of the mark as a certification mark by an authorized user. 37 C.F.R. §2.56(b)(5). See TMEP §1306.02(a)(i)(B) for more information regarding specimens for certification marks.
Because geographic certification marks certify regional origin, and thus often consist primarily of a geographic term, they may appear in an inconspicuous fashion on specimens (see TMEP §1306.05(j), Examples 4 and 8) and they may not look the same as other types of certification marks, which typically include wording, such as “certified,” or design elements, such as seals or similar matter. In other instances, the geographic certification mark may be the only mark displayed because the authorized user has chosen to market its goods or services without using a trademark or service mark. See TMEP §1306.05(j), Example 2. If the significance of the mark as used on the specimen is not apparent, the examining attorney may require the applicant, pursuant to 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b), to explain the circumstances surrounding the use of the mark so that the examining attorney may determine whether the mark truly functions as a certification mark.
If the examining attorney concludes either that the specimen does not show the mark being used by a person other than the applicant or that the specimen does not demonstrate the mark functioning as a certification mark, registration should be refused under Trademark Act §§1, 2, 4, and 45. 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, 1054, 1127. The applicant may overcome the refusal by submitting an acceptable substitute specimen or amending the filing basis to §1(b), if appropriate. See TMEP §§806.03(c), 904.05.