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While the definition may vary from one country to the other, collective marks (also known as collective trademarks) are usually defined as signs that distinguish the geographical origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality or other common characteristics of goods or services of different enterprises using the collective mark. It is a trademark or service mark used, or intended to be used, in commerce, by the members of a cooperative, an association, or other collective group or organization, including a mark which indicates membership in a union, an association, or other organization. An example of a collective mark is the mark "CPA", used to indicate members of the Society of Certified Public Accountants. A collective mark implies that the member organization conforms to the standards and goals of the parent organization and derives some collective benefit from membership.
A collective mark can also be used in connection with goods or services. Used with products, the mark shows that the maker or supplier of the goods, or the provider of the services, is a member of the organization or group represented by the mark. This use indicates that the member's goods or services are provided under the auspices of the owner of the collective mark and represent products consistent with those provided directly by the mark's owner.
Under the definition of 'collective mark' in §45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1127, a collective mark must be owned by a collective entity. The use of a collective trademark or collective service mark is by members of the collective; therefore, rather than asserting use or intended use of the mark, the applicant must assert either (1) that the applicant is exercising legitimate control over the use of the mark in commerce by its members, or (2) that the applicant has a bona fide intention to exercise legitimate control over the use of the mark in commerce by its members.
Collective marks, similar to certification marks are exceptions to the underlying principle of trademarks in that most trademarks indicate the individual source of the goods or services. Collective marks are also similar to certification marks in the respect that the registrants of these marks are generally not the users of them. These marks are not even expected to be used by the persons, businesses, or organizations who register them. However, a collective mark can be used by a variety of traders, rather than just one individual concern. However, collective marks differ from certification marks in the respect that collective marks may be used by particular members of the organization 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.
Most countries, including the United States, require that an application for a collective mark be accompanied by a copy of the regulations that govern the use of the collective mark and do not allow for the licensing of a collective mark. Like trade/service marks, collective marks are also maintained upon payment of renewal fees.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified trademark lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local trademark attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.