TMEP 1306.06(a): Distinction Between Certification Mark and Collective Mark

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

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1306.06(a)    Distinction Between Certification Mark and Collective Mark

A collective trademark or collective service mark indicates origin of goods or services in the members of a group. A collective membership mark indicates membership in an organization. A certification mark certifies characteristics or features of goods or services. See Am. Speech-Language-Hearing Ass’n v. Nat'l Hearing Aid Soc'y, 224 USPQ 798, 806-808 (TTAB 1984), for a discussion of the distinction between collective marks and certification marks.

Both collective marks and certification marks are used by more than one person, but only the users of collective marks are related to each other through membership in a collective group. The collective mark is used by all members and the collective organization holds the title to the collective mark for the benefit of all members.

A certification mark may be used to certify that the work or labor on the goods or services was performed by a member of a union or other organization. See TMEP §1306.04(d)(ii). Used in this manner, the certification mark certifies not that the user is a member of an organization but that the labor on the user’s goods or services was performed by a member of an organization.

An application to register a mark that is used or intended to be used by members of a collective group must be scrutinized carefully to determine the function of the mark. If the mark is used or intended to be used by the members as a trademark on goods they produce or as a service mark for services they perform, then the mark is a collective trademark or collective service mark. If the mark is used or intended to be used by members to indicate membership in an organization, then the mark is a collective membership mark. However, if use of the mark is or will be authorized only under circumstances designated by the organization to certify characteristics or features of the goods or services, the mark is a certification mark.