1306 Certification Marks
1306.01 Definition of Certification Mark
Section 4 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1054, provides for the registration of "certification marks, including indications of regional origin." Section 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1127, defines "certification mark" as follows:
The term "certification mark" means any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof--
- (1) used by a person other than its owner, or
- (2) which its owner has a bona fide intention to permit a person other than the owner to use in commerce and files an application to register on the principal register established by this [Act],
to certify regional or other origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy, or other characteristics of such person’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.
A certification mark "is a special creature created for a purpose uniquely different from that of an ordinary service mark or trademark...." In re Florida Citrus Commission, 160 USPQ 495, 499 (TTAB 1968).
There are generally three types of certification marks. First, there are certification marks that certify that goods or services originate in a specific geographic region (e.g., ROQUEFORT for cheese). See Community of Roquefort v. William Faehndrich, Inc., 303 F.2d 494, 133 USPQ 633 (2d Cir. 1962); State of Florida, Department of Citrus v. Real Juices, Inc., 330 F. Supp. 428, 171 USPQ 66 (M.D. Fla. 1971) (SUNSHINE TREE for citrus from Florida); Bureau Nat’l Interprofessionnel Du Cognac v. International Better Drinks Corp., 6 USPQ2d 1610 (TTAB 1988) (COGNAC for distilled brandy from a region in France). See TMEP §§1306.02 et seq.
Second, there are certification marks that certify that the goods or services meet certain standards in relation to quality, materials, or mode of manufacture (e.g., approval by Underwriters Laboratories). See Midwest Plastic Fabricators Inc. v. Underwriters Laboratories Inc., 906 F.2d 1568, 15 USPQ2d 1359 (Fed. Cir. 1990) (UL certifies, among other things, representative samplings of electrical equipment meeting certain safety standards); In re Celanese Corp. of America, 136 USPQ 86 (TTAB 1962) (CELANESE certifies plastic toys meeting certifier’s safety standards).
Third, certification marks may certify that the work or labor on the products or services was performed by a member of a union or other organization, or that the performer meets certain standards. See TMEP §1306.03 and cases cited therein for further information.
There are two characteristics that differentiate certification marks from trademarks or service marks. First, a certification mark is not used by its owner and, second, a certification mark does not indicate commercial source or distinguish the goods or services of one person from those of another person. See TMEP §1306.09(a) for a discussion of the distinction between a certification mark and a collective trademark, collective service mark, or collective membership mark.
See Holtzman, Certification Marks: An Overview, 81 Trademark Rep. 180 (1991).
1306.01(a) Use Is by Person Other than Owner
A certification mark may not be used, in the trademark sense of "used," by the owner of the mark; it may be used only by a person or persons other than the owner of the mark. That is, the owner of a certification mark does not apply the mark to his or her goods or services and, in fact, usually does not attach or apply the mark at all. The mark is generally applied by other persons to their goods or services, with authorization from the owner of the mark.
The owner of a certification mark does not produce the goods or perform the services in connection with which the mark is used, and thus does not control their nature and quality. Therefore, it is not appropriate to inquire about control over the nature and quality of the goods or services. What the owner of the certification mark does control is use of the mark by others on their goods or services. This control consists of taking steps to ensure that the mark is applied only to goods or services that contain the characteristics or meet the requirements that the certifier/owner has established or adopted for the certification. See TMEP §1306.06(f)(ii) regarding submission of the standards established by the certifier to determine whether the certification mark may be used in relation to the goods and/or services of others.
1306.01(b) Purpose Is to Certify, Not to Indicate Source
The purpose of a certification mark is to inform purchasers that the goods or services of a person possess certain characteristics or meet certain qualifications or standards established by another person. A certification mark does not indicate origin in a single commercial or proprietary source. In certifying, the same mark is used on the goods or services of many different producers.
The message conveyed by a certification mark is that the goods or services have been examined, tested, inspected, or in some way checked by a person who is not their producer, using methods determined by the certifier/owner. The placing of the mark on goods, or its use in connection with services, thus constitutes a certification by someone other than the producer that the prescribed characteristics or qualifications of the certifier for those goods or services have been met.
1306.02 Certification Marks that Are Indications of Regional Origin
A geographical term may be used, either alone or as a portion of a composite mark, to certify that the goods originate in the geographical region identified by the term or, in some circumstances, from a broader region that includes the region identified by the term. See TMEP §1306.02(a). As noted in Community of Roquefort v. William Faehndrich, Inc., 303 F.2d 494, 497, 133 USPQ 633, 635 (2d Cir. 1962):
A geographical name does not require a secondary meaning in order to qualify for registration as a certification mark. It is true that section 1054 provides that certification marks are "subject to the provisions relating to the registration of trademarks, so far as they are applicable...." But section 1052(e)(2), which prohibits registration of names primarily geographically descriptive, specifically excepts "indications of regional origin" registrable under section 1054. Therefore, a geographical name may be registered as a certification mark even though it is primarily geographically descriptive.
When a geographical term is used in a composite certification mark to certify regional origin, the examining attorney should not require a disclaimer or refuse registration of the composite mark on the ground that the mark is primarily geographically descriptive. However, when a geographical term used in a composite certification mark is not used to certify regional origin (e.g., "California" used to certify that fruit is organically grown), the examining attorney should refuse registration or require a disclaimer, as appropriate.
Marks that may be used to certify regional origin are not necessarily limited to terms that comprise precise geographical terminology. A distortion of a geographical term, an abbreviation of a geographical term, or a combination of geographical terms can be used as, or in, a certification mark indicating regional origin. It is also possible for a term that is not technically geographical to have significance as an indication of origin solely in a particular region.
The issue in determining whether a designation is registrable as a regional certification mark is whether the public understands that goods bearing the mark come only from the region named in the mark, not whether the public is expressly aware of the certification function of the mark per se. If use of the designation in fact is controlled by the certifier and limited to products meeting the certifier’s standards of regional origin, and if purchasers understand the designation to refer only to products produced in the particular region and not to products produced elsewhere, then the designation functions as a regional certification mark. Institut Nat’l Des Appellations D’Origine v. Brown-Forman Corp., 47 USPQ2d 1875 (TTAB 1998).
A mark that is geographically deceptive may not be registered as a certification mark of regional origin. See TMEP §§1210.05 et seq. regarding geographically deceptive marks.
1306.02(a) Indicating the Region
The examining attorney should examine the specimen of use and evidence in the record to determine whether the geographical term is being used as a certification mark to indicate the regional origin of the goods upon which it is used. If the record or other evidence available to the examining attorney indicates that the proposed mark has a principal significance as a generic term denoting a type of goods, registration should be refused. In re Cooperativa Produttori Latte E Fontina Valle D'Acosta, 230 USPQ 131 (TTAB 1986) (FONTINA held a generic name of a type of cheese rather than a certification mark indicating regional origin, in view of the fact that non-certified producers outside that region use the term to identify non-certified cheeses). However, a certification mark used to certify regional origin will be deemed to have become a generic term as applied to particular goods only if it has lost its significance as an indication of regional origin of those goods. See Tea Board of India v. The Republic of Tea, Inc., 80 USPQ2d 1881 (TTAB 2006) (applicant failed to establish that the term DARJEELING had become generic due to opposer’s alleged failure to control the use of the mark to certify origin in the Darjeeling region of India), and cases cited therein. The basis for refusal of registration on the Principal Register is 15 U.S.C. §§1052(e)(1), 1054, and 1127, and the basis for refusal of registration on the Supplemental Register is 15 U.S.C. §§1054, 1091, and 1127 (see TMEP §§1209.02 et seq).
When a geographic term is being used as a certification mark to indicate regional origin, the application should define the regional origin that the mark certifies. The defined region in the certification statement should be limited to the place named in the mark if the named place is famous as a source of the goods or the goods are a principal product of that place.
The defined region in the certification statement may be broader than the place named in the mark as long as the place named in the mark is within the larger defined region and there is no evidence that it is famous as a source of the goods or they are a principal product of the place. If there is evidence that the narrower geographic area named in the mark is famous for the goods or they are a principal product of that place, and by virtue of the broader region identified in the certification statement the goods may not originate in the geographic location named in the mark, the examining attorney must refuse registration of the mark as geographically deceptive under §2(e)(3) of the Trademark Act. See §§1210.05-1210.05(e).
1306.02(b) Authority to Control a Geographical Term
When a certification mark consists solely, or essentially, of a geographical term, the examining attorney should inquire as to the authority of the applicant to control the use of the term, if the authority is not obvious. Normally, the entity that has authority to exercise control over the use of a geographical term as a certification mark is a governmental body or a body operating with governmental authorization. The right that a private person can acquire in a geographical term is usually a trademark right, on the basis of exclusive use resulting in the term becoming distinctive of that person’s goods. When, however, circumstances make it desirable or necessary for many or all persons in a region to use the name of the region to indicate the origin of their goods, there would be no opportunity for the name to become distinctive for only one person. The term would be used by all persons in the region, not as a trademark indicating commercial origin, but as a certification mark indicating regional origin.
When a geographical term is used as a certification mark, two elements are of basic concern: first, preserving the freedom of all persons in the region to use the term and; second, preventing abuses or illegal uses of the mark that would be detrimental to all those entitled to use the mark. Normally, a private individual is not in the best position to fulfill these objectives. The government of a region would be the logical authority to control the use of the name of the region. The government, either directly or through a body to which it has given authority, would have power to preserve the right of all persons entitled to use the mark and to prevent abuse or illegal use of the mark.
1306.02(c) A Government Entity as Applicant for a Geographical Certification Mark
The applicant may be the government itself (such as the government of the United States, a state, or a city), one of the departments of a government, or a body operating with governmental authorization that is not formally a part of the government. There may be an interrelationship between bodies in more than one of these categories and the decision as to which is the appropriate body to apply depends on which body actually conducts the certification program or is most directly associated with it. The examining attorney should not question the identity of the applicant, unless the record indicates that the entity identified as the applicant is not the certifier.
1306.03 Certification Marks Certifying that Labor Was Performed by Specific Group or Individual
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, or by a person who meets certain standards and tests of competency set by the certifier. 15 U.S.C. §1127. The certifier does not certify the quality of the work being performed, but only that the work was performed by a member of the union or group, or by someone who meets certain standards. In re National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, 218 USPQ 744, 747 (TTAB 1983). See also American Speech-Language-Hearing Ass’n v. National Hearing Aid Society, 224 USPQ 798 (TTAB 1984). Used in this manner, the mark certifies a characteristic of the goods or services. Whether or not specific matter functions as a certification mark depends on whether the matter is used in connection with the goods or services in such a manner that the purchasing public will recognize it, either consciously or otherwise, as a certification mark.
Occasionally, it is not clear whether a term is being used to certify that work or labor relating to the goods or services was performed by someone meeting certain standards or by members of a union or other organization to indicate membership, or whether the term is merely being used as a title or a degree of the performer to indicate professional qualifications. Matter that might appear to be simply a title or a degree may function as a certification mark if used in the proper manner. See In re Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists, 85 USPQ2d 1403 (TTAB 2007) (CRNA functions as certification mark used to certify that anesthesia services are being performed by a person who meets certain standards and tests of competency); In re Software Publishers Ass’n, 69 USPQ2d 2009 (TTAB 2003) (CERTIFIED SOFTWARE MANAGER used on certificate merely indicates that holder of the certificate has been awarded a title or degree, and is not likely to be perceived as certification mark); In re National Ass’n of Purchasing Management, 228 USPQ 768 (TTAB 1986) (C.P.M. used merely as title or degree, not as certification mark); In re National Ass’n of Legal Secretaries (Int’l), 221 USPQ 50 (TTAB 1983) (PROFESSIONAL LEGAL SECRETARY not used on the specimen in such a way as to indicate certification significance); In re National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, supra (design mark not used simply as a degree or title, but to certify that the performer of the services had met certain standards); In re Institute of Certified Professional Business Consultants, 216 USPQ 338 (TTAB 1982) (CPBC not used as a certification mark for business consulting services, but only as a title or degree); In re Professional Photographers of Ohio, Inc., 149 USPQ 857 (TTAB 1966) (CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER used only as the title of a person, not as a certification mark). Cf. In re University of Mississippi, 1 USPQ2d 1909 (TTAB 1987) (use of university seal on diplomas did not represent use as a certification mark).
See TMEP §1306.09(a) regarding the difference between a certification mark and a collective mark.
1306.04 Ownership of Certification Marks
The owner of a certification mark is the party responsible for the certification that is conveyed by the mark. The party who affixes the mark, with authorization of the certifier, does not own the mark; nor is the mark owned by someone who merely acts as an agent for the certifier, for example, an inspector hired by the certifier. The certifier, as owner, is the only person who may file an application for registration of a certification mark. See In re Safe Electrical Cord Committee, 125 USPQ 310 (TTAB 1960).
Certification is often the sole activity for the owner of a certification mark. However, a person is not necessarily precluded from owning a certification mark because he or she also engages in other activities, including the sale of goods or the performance of services. However, the certification mark may not be the same mark that the person uses as a trademark or service mark on goods or services. See TMEP §1306.05(a).
Examples of organizations which conduct both types of activities are trade associations and other membership or "club" types of businesses, such as automobile associations. These organizations may perform services for their members, and sell various goods to their members and others, as well as conduct programs in which they certify characteristics or other aspects of goods or services, especially of kinds which relate to the main purpose of the association.
Manufacturing or service companies that do not certify the goods or services of members may nonetheless engage in certification programs under proper circumstances. For example, a manufacturer of chemical wood preservatives might conduct a program certifying certain characteristics of wood or wood products that are treated and sold by others. Among the characteristics or circumstances certified could be the fact that a preservative produced by this manufacturer under a specified trademark was used in the treatment.
As another example, a magazine publisher may conduct a certification program relating to goods or services that are advertised in or have some relevance to the interest area of the magazine.
The certifier/owner determines the requirements for the certification. The standards do not have to be original with the certifier/owner, but may be standards established by another person, such as specifications promulgated by a government agency, or standards developed through research of a private research organization. See TMEP §1306.06(f)(ii) regarding the standards for certification. However, if the name of the organization that developed the standards is part of the mark, an issue could arise as to whether the mark is deceptively misdescriptive under 15 U.S.C. §1052(e)(1) (see TMEP §1209.04) or falsely suggests a connection with persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols under 15 U.S.C. §1052(a) (see TMEP §1203.03(e)).
1306.05 Characteristics of Certification Marks
The Trademark Act does not require that a certification mark be in any specific form or include any specific wording. A certification mark can be wording only, design only, or a combination of wording and design. In other words, there is no particular way that a mark must look in order to be a certification mark.
A certification mark often includes wording such as "approved by," "inspected," "conforming to," "certified," or similar wording, which is natural since certification (or approval) is practically the only significance the mark is to have when it is used on goods or in connection with services. However, this wording is not required, and a mark that entirely lacks this wording can perform the function of certification.
The examining attorney must look to the facts disclosed in the record to determine whether the mark is used in certification activity and is in fact a certification mark.
It is not necessary to show that the mark is instantly recognizable as a certification mark, or that the mark has already become well known to the public as a certification mark. However, it should be clear from the record that the circumstances surrounding the use or promotion of the mark will give certification significance to the mark in the marketplace. See Ex parte Van Winkle, 117 USPQ 450 (Comm’r Pats. 1958).
1306.05(a) Same Mark Not Registrable as Certification Mark and as Any Other Type of Mark
Trademarks or service marks and certification marks are different and distinct types of marks, which serve different purposes. A trademark or service mark is used by the owner of the mark on his or her goods or services, whereas a certification mark is used by persons other than the owner of the mark. A certification mark does not distinguish between producers, but represents a certification regarding some characteristic that is common to the goods or services of many persons. Using the same mark for two contradictory purposes would result in confusion and uncertainty about the meaning of the mark and would invalidate the mark for either purpose.
Section 4 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1054, prohibits the registration of a certification mark "when used so as to represent falsely that the owner or a user thereof makes or sells the goods or performs the services on or in connection with which such mark is used;" and §14(5)(B) of the Act, 15 U.S.C. §1064(5)(B), provides for the cancellation of a registered certification mark where the registrant engages in the production or marketing of any goods or services to which the certification mark is applied. See TMEP §1306.07 regarding §14(5) of the Act. Thus, if a party owns a registration as a trademark or service mark for any goods or services, he or she may not register the same mark as a certification mark for those goods or services. Conversely, a registration as a certification mark precludes registration of the same mark by its owner as a trademark or service mark for any goods or services to which the certification mark applies. The owner of a certification mark may seek registration of the same mark as a trademark or service mark for goods or services other than those to which the certification mark is applied. However, the application for a certification mark must be filed separately from the application for a trademark or service mark, because the purpose and use of a trademark or service mark differ from those of a certification mark as do the allegations and claims made in support of a certification mark.
The prohibition against registration both as a trademark or service mark and as a certification mark applies to marks that are identical or so similar as to constitute essentially the same mark. Variations in wording or design, even though small, can, if meaningful, create different marks. On the other hand, inconsequential differences, such as the style of lettering or the addition of wording of little importance, normally would not prevent marks from being regarded as the same. See In re 88Open Consortium Ltd., 28 USPQ2d 1314 (TTAB 1993), in which the mark 88OPEN COMPATIBILITY CERTIFIED and design was found registrable as a certification mark even though applicant owned six registrations for the marks 88OPEN in typed and stylized form as trademarks, service marks, and collective membership marks. The Board noted that the words COMPATIBILITY CERTIFIED served to inform those seeing the mark that it is functioning as a certification mark, and that the certification mark included a design feature not found in the previously registered marks. See also TMEP §§1306.04, 1306.06(c), and 1306.09.
1306.05(b) Cancellation of Applicant’s Prior Registration Required by Change from Certification Mark Use to Trademark or Service Mark Use, or Vice Versa
The nature of the activity in which the mark is used or intended to be used may change from use to certify characteristics of goods or services to use on the party’s own goods or services, or on goods or services produced for the party by related companies. The change might also be the other way around, from trademark or service mark use to certification mark use.
If there is already a registration as one type of mark and the registrant files an application for registration of the mark as the other type, the applicant must surrender the previous registration under §7(e) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1057(e), before the examining attorney approves the new application for publication for opposition or issuance of a registration on the Supplemental Register. See 37 C.F.R. §2.172 and TMEP §1608 regarding surrender. The registration certificate for the new application should not issue until the prior registration actually has been cancelled.
In examining the new application, the examining attorney must carefully review the application to ensure that the facts of record support the new application.
1306.06 Examination of Certification Mark Applications
Except where otherwise specified herein, the same standards are used to determine the registrability of certification marks that are used for other types of marks. Thus, the standards generally applicable to trademarks and service marks are used in considering issues such as descriptiveness, disclaimers, and likelihood of confusion. (But see TMEP §§1306.02 et seq. regarding certification marks indicating regional origin only.)
Regarding the application of §2(e) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(e), to certification marks, see Community of Roquefort v. Santo, 443 F.2d 1196, 170 USPQ 205 (C.C.P.A. 1971); In re National Ass’n of Legal Secretaries (Int’l), 221 USPQ 50 (TTAB 1983).
Regarding the application of §2(d), 15 U.S.C. §1052(d), the test for determining likelihood of confusion is the same for certification marks – the du Pont analysis. In re Accelerate s.a.l., 101 USPQ2d 2047, 2049 (TTAB 2012) (quoting Motion Picture Ass’n of Am., Inc. v. Respect Sportswear, Inc., 83 USPQ2d 1555, 1559-60 (TTAB 2007)); see In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1361, 177 USPQ 563, 567 (C.C.P.A. 1973); see also Procter & Gamble Co. v. Cohen, 375 F.2d 494, 153 USPQ 188 (C.C.P.A. 1967); Tea Bd. of India v. Republic of Tea, Inc., 80 USPQ2d 1881 (TTAB 2006); Stabilisierrungsfonds fur Wein v. Peter Meyer Winery GmbH, 9 USPQ2d 1073 (TTAB 1988); E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co. v. Yoshida Int’l, Inc., 393 F. Supp. 502, 185 USPQ 597 (E.D.N.Y. 1975).
However, because a certification mark owner does not use the mark itself, the likelihood-of-confusion analysis is based on a comparison of the mark as applied to the goods and/or services of the certification mark users, including the channels of trade and classes of purchasers. In re Accelerate s.a.l., 101 USPQ2d at 2049 (quoting Motion Picture Ass’n of Am. Inc. v. Respect Sportswear, Inc., 83 USPQ2d at 1559-60); see also Jos. S. Cohen & Sons Co. v. Hearst Magazines, Inc., 220 F.2d 763, 765, 105 USPQ 269, 271 (C.C.P.A. 1955).
A refusal to register because the subject matter does not function as a certification mark is predicated on §§1, 2, 4, and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1052, 1054, and 1127. For example, educational or other degrees or titles awarded to individuals, and used only as personal titles or degrees, are not certification marks. So used, titles and degrees indicate qualifications or attainments of the person; they do not pertain to or certify services that have been performed by the person. See TMEP §1306.03.
1306.06(a) The Mark on the Drawing
The drawing in the application must include the entire certification mark, but it should not include anything that is not part of the mark. The examining attorney must refer to the specimen to determine what constitutes the mark. See In re National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, 218 USPQ 744 (TTAB 1983). In evaluating the drawing, the same standards used in relation to trademark and service mark drawings apply to certification marks (see TMEP §§807 et seq.).
1306.06(b) Specimens of Use for Certification Marks
A certification mark specimen must show how a person other than the owner uses the mark to certify regional or other origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy, or other characteristics of that person’s goods or services; or that members of a union or other organization performed the work or labor on the goods or services. 37 C.F.R. §2.56(b)(5). See In re Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists, 85 USPQ2d 1403 (TTAB 2007).
Although a certification mark performs a different function from a trademark or a service mark, it is used in a manner analogous to that of a trademark or a service mark (i.e., on a label, tag, or container for the goods, a display associated with the goods, or in the performance or advertising of services). Thus, materials that bear the mark, and are actually attached or applied to the goods or used in relation to the services by the persons authorized to use the mark, constitute proper specimens.
Sometimes, the owner/certifier prepares tags or labels that bear the certification mark and that are supplied to the authorized users to attach to their goods or use in relation to their services. See Ex parte Porcelain Enamel Institute, Inc., 110 USPQ 258 (Comm’r Pats. 1956). These tags or labels are acceptable specimens.
The same standards used to evaluate the acceptability of trademark and service mark specimens also apply to certification marks. See TMEP §§904 et seq.
1306.06(c) Relation Between Certification Mark and Trademark or Service Mark on Specimens
It is customary for trademarks or service marks to be placed on goods or used with services in conjunction with certification marks. However, it is also possible for a certification mark to be the only mark used on goods or with services. Some producers market their goods or services without using a trademark or service mark, yet these producers may be authorized to use a certification mark and, as a result, the certification mark would be the only mark on the goods or services. In these situations, the significance of the mark might not be readily apparent and the examining attorney should request an explanation of the circumstances to ascertain whether the mark is a certification mark rather than a trademark or service mark. See also TMEP §1306.09.
When a trademark or a service mark appears on the specimen in addition to a certification mark, the certification mark can be on a separate label, or can be included on a single label along with the user’s own trademark or service mark.
A composite certification mark may include a trademark or service mark, provided the composite mark functions to certify, with the trademark or service mark serving only to inform, or to suggest the certification program, rather than to indicate origin of the goods or services with which the mark is used. These situations usually are created when a company that produces goods or performs services wants to develop a program and a mark to certify characteristics of the goods or services of others that are related to the producer’s own goods or services. See the examples in TMEP §1306.04.
The trademark or service mark must be owned by the same person who owns the certification mark. A party may not include the trademark or service mark of another in a certification mark, even with a disclaimer. If the examining attorney believes that a trademark or service mark included in a certification mark is owned by another, the examining attorney should refuse registration of the certification mark.
1306.06(d) Classification of Goods and Services in Certification Mark Applications
Section 1 and §44 Applications
In applications to register certification marks, all goods are classified in Class A and all services are classified in Class B. 37 C.F.R. §6.3. Both Classes A and B (but not any other classes) may be included in one application. See TMEP §§1403 et seq. regarding multiple-class applications.
NOTE: When the Trademark Act of 1946 went into effect, the goods and services for which certification marks were registered were classified in the regular classes for goods and services. It was later concluded that this was not reasonable, because a certification mark is commonly used on a great variety of goods and services, and the specialized purpose of these marks makes it unrealistic to divide the goods and services into the competitive groups that the regular classes represent. The change to classification in Classes A and B for certification marks was made by amendment of the Trademark Rules on August 15, 1955.
Section 66(a) Applications
In a §66(a) application, classification is determined by the IB, in accordance with the Nice Agreement. Classes A and B come from the old United States classification system (see TMEP §1401.02) and are not included in the international classification system. In a §66(a) application, the international classification of goods/services cannot be changed from the classification given to the goods/services by the IB. See TMEP §1401.03(d). Accordingly, if the mark in a §66(a) application is identified as a certification mark, or appears to be a certification mark, the USPTO will not reclassify it into Class A or B. However, the examining attorney must ensure that the applicant complies with all other United States requirements for certification marks, regardless of the classification chosen by the IB.
1306.06(e) Identification of Goods and Services in Certification Mark Applications
The identification of goods or services in a certification mark application must describe the goods and/or services of the party who will receive the certification, not the activities of the certifier/owner of the certification mark. This is consistent with the requirement that the owner of a certification mark not produce the goods or perform the services in connection with which the mark is used. The certification activities of the certifier are described in the certification statement, not in the identification of goods/services. For an explanation of the certification statement, see TMEP §1306.06(f)(i).
In a certification mark application, the goods or services that are certified may be identified less specifically than in an application for registration of a trademark or service mark. Ordinarily, it is only necessary to indicate general kinds of goods and services, such as food, agricultural commodities, electrical products, textile materials, printed material, insurance agency services, machinery repair, or restaurant services. However, sufficient information must be provided to enable a comparison of goods/services and analysis of trade channels in regard to possible likelihood-of-confusion scenarios. If the certification program itself is limited to specific goods or services, for example, wine, wood doors, or bakery machinery, then the identification in the application must also reflect this limitation.
The terms "certification," "certify," or "certifies" should not be included in the identification, which should be limited to the goods or services, as in the following examples:
Building, construction, and safety materials and products, in International Class A
Medical services in the field of addiction medicine and treatment, in International Class B
1306.06(f) Special Elements of Certification Mark Applications
1306.06(f)(i) Statement of What the Mark Certifies
The application must contain a statement of the characteristic, standard, or other feature that is certified or intended to be certified by the mark. The statement should begin with wording, "The certification mark, as used (or intended to be used) by authorized persons, certifies (or is intended to certify) . . . ." See 37 C.F.R. §2.45.
All of the characteristics or features that the mark certifies should be included. A mark does not have to be limited to certifying a single characteristic or feature.
The characteristics or features that the mark certifies should be explained in reasonable detail, so that they are clear. The broad suggestive terms of the statute, such as quality, material, mode of manufacture, are generally not satisfactory by themselves, because they do not accurately reveal the nature of the certification. How specific the statement should be depends in part on the narrowness or breadth of the certification. For example, "quality" would not inform the public of the meaning of the certification where the characteristic being certified is limited, for example, to the strength of a material, or the purity of a strain of seed.
The statement of certification in the application is printed on the registration certificate. For that reason, it should be reasonably specific but does not have to include the details of the specifications of the characteristic being certified. If practicable, however, more detailed specifications should be made part of the application file record.
The statement of what the mark certifies is separate from the identification of goods and/or services.
The applicant (certifier) must submit a copy of the standards established to determine whether others may use the certification mark on their goods and/or in connection with their services. 37 C.F.R. §2.45. For an intent-to-use application, under §1(b) of the Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051(b), the standards are submitted with the allegation of use (i.e., either the amendment to allege use or the statement of use). 37 C.F.R. §2.45(b).
The standards do not have to be original with the applicant. They may be standards established by another party, such as specifications promulgated by a government agency, or standards developed through research of a private research organization.
The standards must cover the full scope of the goods/services identified in the application. For example, if the goods are "olive oil," but the standards are only for "extra virgin olive oil," the examining attorney must require the applicant to submit standards that cover all types of olive oil or to amend the identification to "extra virgin olive oil."
1306.06(f)(iii) Exercise of Control
In an application based on use in commerce under §1(a) of the Trademark Act, the applicant must assert that the applicant is exercising legitimate control over the use of the certification mark in commerce. 37 C.F.R. §2.45(a).
In an application based on §1(b), §44, or §66(a) of the Act, the applicant must assert that the applicant has a bona fide intention to exercise legitimate control over the use of the certification mark in commerce. See 37 C.F.R. §2.45(b). In a §1(b) application, before the mark can register, the applicant must file an allegation of use under 15 U.S.C. §1051(c) or 15 U.S.C. §1051(d), alleging that the applicant is exercising legitimate control over the use of the certification mark in commerce.
If there is doubt as to the existence or nature of such control by the applicant, the examining attorney should require an explanation and sufficient disclosure of facts, or the filing of appropriate documents, to support the applicant’s statement regarding the exercise of control over the use of the mark, pursuant to 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b).
1306.06(f)(iv) Use by Others Indicated in Dates-of-Use Clause
When specifying the dates of first use, the applicant must indicate that the certification mark was first used under the authority of the applicant, or by persons authorized by the applicant, because a certification mark is not used by the applicant itself.
1306.06(f)(v) Statement that Mark is Not Used by Applicant
The application must contain a statement that the applicant is not engaged in (or, if the application is filed under §1(b), §44, or §66(a) of the Act, will not engage in) the production or marketing of the goods or services to which the mark is applied. See 37 C.F.R. §2.45. This statement does not have to be verified, and can, therefore, be entered by examiner’s amendment.
1306.06(f)(vi) Amendment to Different Type of Mark
If an application is filed to register a mark as a certification mark and the mark is actually another type of mark, or if an application is filed to register a mark as another type when it is actually a certification mark, the application may be amended to request registration as the proper type of mark. It is preferred that the applicant completely rewrite the application to provide a clean copy, rather than amend the original documents. Also, the application should be re-executed because some essential allegations differ for the different types of marks.
Applications for certification marks, collective marks, and collective membership marks cannot be filed using TEAS Plus. 37 C.F.R. §2.22(c). Therefore, in a TEAS Plus application, an additional TEAS Plus processing fee will be required if the mark is amended to a collective, collective membership, or certification mark. See TMEP §819.01(a).
1306.07 Relationship of §14 (Cancellation) to Examination of Certification Mark Applications
15 U.S.C. §1064 (Extract) Cancellation.
A petition to cancel a registration of a mark, stating the grounds relied upon, may, upon payment of the prescribed fee, be filed as follows by any person who believes that he is or will be damaged, including as a result of a likelihood of dilution by blurring or dilution by tarnishment under section 1125(c) of this title, by the registration of a mark on the principal register established by this [Act], or under the Act of March 3, 1881, or the Act of February 20, 1905....
. . .
- (5) At any time in the case of a certification mark on the ground that the registrant (A) does not control, or is not able legitimately to exercise control over, the use of such mark, or (B) engages in the production or marketing of any goods or services to which the certification mark is applied, or (C) permits the use of the certification mark for purposes other than to certify, or (D) discriminately refuses to certify or to continue to certify the goods or services of any person who maintains the standards or conditions which such mark certifies....
. . .
Nothing in paragraph (5) shall be deemed to prohibit the registrant from using its certification mark in advertising or promoting recognition of the certification program or of the goods or services meeting the certification standards of the registrant. Such uses of the certification mark shall not be grounds for cancellation under paragraph (5), so long as the registrant does not itself produce, manufacture, or sell any of the certified goods or services to which its identical certification mark is applied.
Section 14 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1064, provides for petitions to cancel registrations. Subsection (5) lists specific circumstances when petitions to cancel certification marks may be filed. The provisions of §14(5) are applicable in ex parte examination as follows:
Subsection A: In an application, the applicant states under oath or declaration that the applicant is exercising, or has a bona fide intention to exercise, legitimate control over the use of the certification mark. TMEP §1306.06(f)(iii). Such statement is accepted, unless the examining attorney has knowledge of facts indicating that it should not be accepted.
Subsection B: The applicant is required to state, as appropriate, that he or she is not engaged in, or will not engage in, the production or marketing of any goods or services to which the certification mark is applied. TMEP §1306.06(f)(v). Such statement is accepted, unless the examining attorney has knowledge of facts indicating the contrary.
Subsection C: This subsection concerns whether a party permits use of the certification mark for purposes other than to certify. No statements are required in the application specifically on this point. The existence of unauthorized or illegal uses by others without the applicant’s authorization is not within the examining attorney’s province and cannot be used as a basis for refusal to register, provided that use authorized by the applicant, as supported by the record, is proper certification use.
Subsection D: This subsection relates to the obligation of the owner not to discriminately refuse to certify. This subject is not mentioned in §4 or §45, 15 U.S.C. §1054 or §1127. The Office has never undertaken to evaluate, in ex parte examination, whether the standards or characteristics which the mark certifies, as set out by the applicant, are discriminatory per se; nor is it in the province of ex parte procedure to investigate or police how the certification is practiced.
1306.08 Registration of Certification Mark on Basis of Foreign Registration
A certification mark may be registered in the United States under §44 of the Trademark Act, on the basis of a foreign registration. However, whether a particular foreign registration is acceptable as the basis for a United States registration depends on the scope of the foreign registration.
A person may not obtain a registration in the United States that is broader in scope than the foreign registration on which the United States application is based. See In re Löwenbräu München, 175 USPQ 178 (TTAB 1972); TMEP §1402.01(b). Therefore, a registration as a certification mark in the United States may not be based on a foreign registration that is actually a trademark registration, i.e., a registration that is based on the registrant’s placement of the mark on his or her own goods as a trademark. The scope of the registration, i.e., the nature of the registration right, would not be the same.
The scope and nature of the registration right is not always immediately apparent from a foreign registration certificate. Foreign registration certificates are not always labeled as pertaining to a trademark, service mark, collective mark, or certification mark and, when they are labeled, the significance of the term is not always clear. For example, the designation "collective" represents a different concept in some foreign countries than it does in the United States. Moreover, while a certificate printed on a standardized form may be headed with the designation "trademark," the body of the certificate might contain language to the contrary.
Since certification is an exception in the larger world of trademarks, an indication of certification in the registration certificate would normally represent a conscious decision that a certification situation exists. Therefore, if a foreign registration certificate has a heading that designates the mark as a certification mark, or if the body of the foreign certificate contains language indicating that the registration is for certification, the foreign registration normally may be accepted to support registration in the United States as a certification mark.
Whenever there is ambiguity about the scope or nature of the foreign registration, or whenever the examining attorney believes that the foreign certificate may not reflect the actual registration right, the examining attorney should inquire regarding the basis of the foreign registration, pursuant to 37 C.F.R. 2.61(b).
1306.09 Uncertainty Regarding Type of Mark
When the facts in the application are insufficient to provide an adequate basis for determining whether the mark is functioning as a trademark or service mark or as a certification mark, the examining attorney should ask for further explanation as to the activities in which the mark is used and should require a sufficient disclosure of the facts to enable a proper examination to be made, pursuant to 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b). The manner in which the activities associated with a mark are conducted is the main factor that determines the type of mark. The conduct of parties involved with the mark evidences the relationship between the parties, and the responsibilities of each to the goods or services and to the mark.
1306.09(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 American Speech-Language-Hearing Ass’n v. National Hearing Aid Society, 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 §1306.03. 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.
1306.09(b) Distinguishing Certification Mark Use from Related-Company Use of Trademark or Service Mark
Sometimes, an application requests registration of a certification mark, but there is a contractual relationship in the nature of a franchise or license between the applicant and the user of the mark, whereby the applicant, as the franchisor or licensor, specifies the nature or quality of the goods produced (or of the services performed) under the contract. These situations require care in examination because they usually indicate trademark or service mark use (through related companies) rather than certification mark use, because the applicant, as franchisor or licensor, controls the nature of the goods or services and has the responsibility for their quality.
The key distinction between use of subject matter as a certification mark and use as a trademark or service mark through a related company is the purpose and function of the mark in the market place, and the significance that it would have to the relevant purchasing public. A trademark or service mark serves to indicate the origin of goods or services, whereas a certification mark serves to guarantee certain qualities or characteristics. See In re Monsanto Co., 201 USPQ 864, 870 (TTAB 1978); In re Celanese Corp. of America, 136 USPQ 86 (TTAB 1962).
Furthermore, the owner of a certification mark must permit use of the mark if the goods or services meet the certifier’s standard, whereas a trademark owner may, but is not obligated to, license use of its mark to third parties. Monsanto, 201 USPQ at 870.
1306.09(c) Patent Licenses
Sometimes, the owner of a patent asserts ownership of the mark that is applied to goods that are manufactured under license from the patent owner, in accordance with the terms and specifications of the patent. In most cases, these marks have been registered as trademarks, on the basis of related-company use. Generally, the patent owner’s purpose, in arranging for the application of a mark to the goods manufactured under his or her license, would be to identify and distinguish those goods whose nature and quality the patent owner controls through the terms and specifications of the patent. Therefore, registration as a trademark (on the basis of related-company use) rather than registration as a certification mark would be appropriate.