What is a Certification Trademark?

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A certification trademark serves a rather different purpose altogether than a traditional trademark. While certification marks are not as common as trademarks, businesses, associations, and organizations still need them and should not be ignored or overlooked when conducting a federal trademark search when checking the availability of any trademark when you intend to use it with certain products and services.

Certification mark vs. Trademark

To better understand certification trademarks, it is better to determine how they differ from traditional trademarks. The major difference between the two lies in the manner in which they function. In this regard, a traditional trademark shows where the products and/or services come from and identifies and/or distinguishes products and services of one organization from another. When a trademark is used on a product such as a cellphone, a car, or a computer, people can easily tell which company made the product but also how different it is from its competitors. Without trademarks, it would be difficult to tell mobile devices apart and this would prove to be a problem when purchasing products. Without trademarks, people would not be able to tell products apart and would end up buying the wrong thing thinking it’s what they were looking for in the first place. That is why you need to get a trademark law firm to help you register your trademark the right way.

Now that we know trademarks and how important they are in the market, it is time to explore certification marks and their role in the same. A certification mark, on the other hand, is used by an individual who is not necessarily the owner of the certification mark to ascertain that a product or service is authentic and has met certain quality criteria. Consider a certification mark as a sign of quality used to certify something about a product or service. It simply means a person’s product or service possesses certain characteristics or meets certain standards/qualifications or has met certain criteria to distinguish it from similar products or services in the market.

How a certification mark is used

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While a trademark can only be used by the owner upon registration, a certification mark is used by anyone to convey the message that the product or service has been tried, tested, examined, or inspected by someone else other than the owner using methods thought to be of high standards and determined (by the certifier) to have met all the prescribed criteria for quality.  Consider a certification mark as a stamp of approval to show that indeed a product or service is of high quality and can be trusted by whoever is using it. However, note that a certification mark is often applied to a person’s product or service by another person who has the authorization of the mark’s owner and the owner of the product or service has no authority to certify their own product or service.

Examples of certification marks

Examples of certification marks common in the U.S. include:

Energy Star, which is commonly used to certify appliances that have met specific energy-efficiency standards.

RATED R, which certifies that motion pictures about to be shown contain adult content and no person under the age of 17 should watch unless in the company of an adult.

So, certification marks are as important as trademarks, as they certify something about a product or service. However, note that a certification mark is not a replacement for a trademark. 

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