What Is A Certification Mark?

A certification mark is any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce with the owner's permission by someone other than its owner, to certify regional or other geographic origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy, or other characteristics of someone's goods or services, or that the work or labor on the goods or services was performed by members of a union or other organization. It is a type of trademark whereby a trader can use the mark to indicate the origin, material, mode of manufacture of goods, performance of services, quality, accuracy of other characteristics.

Certification marks are frequently used by industrial standards bodies or certification companies to show "approval" of another product in some way. Certification marks are usually given for compliance with defined standards, but are not confined to any membership. They may be used by anyone who can certify that the products involved meet certain established standards. Famous certification marks include WOOLMARK which certifies that the goods on which it is used are made of 100% wool.

Certification marks are exceptions to the underlying principle of trademarks in that most trademarks indicate the individual source of the goods or services. However, a certification mark can be used by a variety of traders, rather than just one individual concern.

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.

The certification represented by a certification mark does not necessarily relate to technical standards. Rather, the mark can indicate material content, some quality of material or manufacture, a method of manufacture or a mode of service, the geographic origin of the product, or that the provider or manufacturer meets the standards of or is sanctioned by a particular organization. In short, authorized use of a certification mark indicates only that the goods or services with which the mark appears satisfies the particular criteria to which the mark's owner attests. So a certification mark is not necessarily, nor even usually intended to be a mark of quality.

The attested­to aspect of the product bearing a certification mark is set out in the public record of the mark's registration in the Trademark Office. Additionally, the mark's owner has a responsibility both to see that users of the mark continue to satisfy the criteria represented by the mark and to make clear to consumers what the mark represents.

Certification marks may be used together with the individual trademark of the producer of a given good. The label used as a certification mark will be evidence that the company's products meet the specific standards required for the use of the certification mark.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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