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Types of Protection

Certification Marks

1. What is a certification mark?

A certification mark certifies the nature or origin of the goods or services to which it has been applied. This includes, for example, region or location or origin, materials of construction, method or mode of manufacture or provision, quality assurance, accuracy of the goods or services or any definable characteristic of the goods or services. It can also certify manufacture or provision of services by members of a union or other organization to certain standards.

2. What are some examples of certification marks?

One example is the GOOD HOUSEKEEPING SEAL OF APPROVAL.  The Good Housekeeping Institute awards the Good Housekeeping Seal, which stands as one of the most recognized consumer product insignia in the United States.  The seal represents Good Housekeeping’s limited warranty that if any product that carries the seal is found defective within two years from the date of purchase, Good Housekeeping will either replace it or refund the purchase price.

Another example is the CE mark that indicates that a product complies with safety, health or environmental requirements set by the European Commission.

The PSE (Product Safety Electric Appliance and Materials) mark of approval indicates that a product complies with Japanese standards for electric devices.

Another example is the WOOLMARK logo, used to identify goods that are 100% wool.

3. To obtain a certification mark registration, what criteria or conditions must be satisfied?

An applicant will normally be required to produce operating rules and regulations identifying what is being certified by the mark and the required standards. The organization doing the certifying cannot itself engage in the production or marketing of the goods or services but must be competent to certify that the requirements have been met by any user. Through the agreement executed by the user confirming adherence to the rules and regulations, the organization must be able to control, or legitimately exercise control over, the permitted use. There will need to be methods of testing and quality control with appointed individuals or bodies to periodically ensure conformance by any user. The manufacturers or users may be prevented from using the seal if an audit reveals a lack of compliance with the standards set by the organization.

4. Are the systems or requirements the same for all countries?

The above guidelines apply to many countries, with some local variations. For example, in some countries it is necessary to show that registration is in the public interest and to the public advantage. Once a certification mark holder has obtained approval under the rules of a major country, the certification mark will likely be acceptable in other countries with some slight amendments as to form and content, taking into account local requirements such as public policy and local rules on aspects of the operation of the certification scheme.

5. What is the process for registration of a certification mark?

A certification mark application is similar in many respects to an ordinary application. It will be examined as to registrability and conflict with prior rights, depending on the jurisdiction concerned. For general details on registration requirements see INTA's basic fact sheets on Filing for a Trademark Application in the United States and Filing for a Trademark Outside of the United States.  Very often there will be amendments or some additional requirements to meet the certification requirements, such as the identification of important standards. 

6. What can I do in those countries where certification mark registrations are not available?

In some countries where there are no provisions for certification, it may be possible to obtain registration as a collective or association mark. The requirements are similar to those of certification marks in most cases, but may be more relaxed in others. Where there are no special registrations for certification or collective marks, the mark owner may apply for an ordinary trademark registration and enter into a licensing arrangement with approved users for the country concerned. For further information see the basic fact sheet dealing with Trademark Licensing.

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