All About Certification Marks

Certification marks are a distinct category of trademarks that differ from traditional trademarks used to identify the source of goods or services. Instead of signifying the origin or source of the product or service, certification marks are used to confirm that certain standards or qualities have been met by the goods or services bearing the mark. Essentially, they act as a badge of quality or compliance with specific criteria.

There are three main categories of certification marks, marks certifying that:

  1. The goods or services originated in a particular geographic region.
  2. The goods or services meet particular standards for quality, materials, and manufacturing methods, as applicable.
  3. The work on the goods or services has met certain standards or belongs to a certain organization or union.

You are probably quite familiar with several certification marks, even if you didn’t realize that’s what they are. For example:


CHAMPAGNE – used to certify sparkling wine made in certain geographic location

Energy Star Rated

ENERGY STAR – used to certify that appliances meet specific energy efficiency standards.

Rated R

RATED R – used to certify that a movie includes adult content and anyone under 17 needs to be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.

USDA Organic

USDA ORGANIC –  used to certify that a product is a raw, fresh product, or processed product that contains organic agricultural ingredients produced and processed in accordance with the National Organic Program.

🗝️Key Characteristics of Certification Marks:

Objective Standards: Certification marks are associated with predetermined, objective standards that products or services must meet. These standards are established and maintained by a certifying body responsible for administering the certification program.

Standards vs. Source: Certification marks indicate that the goods or services or the provider of those goods or services have met specific standards. In contrast, a trademark indicates that the goods or services come from a particular and singular source. Certification marks must be exclusively used for the purpose of certifying that the goods or services meet the certification standards.

Third-Party Control: Unlike regular trademarks owned by the entity producing the goods or services, certification marks are owned and controlled by an independent third party – the certifying body. This ensures impartiality and credibility in the certification process. The owner of a certification mark does not sell the goods or services being certified or isn’t certifying its own goods or services.

Consumer Trust: Certification marks build consumer confidence by signaling that the products or services bearing the mark meet certain quality or authenticity standards. Consumers often rely on these marks like a trademark to make informed purchasing decisions – except that the information the certification mark is providing to consumers is different.

Variety of Industries: Certification marks are prevalent in various industries, including agriculture, food, textiles, and environmental conservation. They are particularly useful when consumers may find it challenging to assess the quality or characteristics of a product or service on their own.

📄The Registration Process for Certification Marks:

The application and registration process for certification marks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is similar to the process for trademarks and services marks, but there are some differences. For example, the applicant must, in addition to providing a specimen of use, also provide a copy of the certification standards. The applicant must also make several statements, including that they are not in the business of selling, manufacturing, or marketing the relevant goods or services and that they have control over the use of the certification mark.

Certification marks are a powerful tool for businesses and organizations to convey the quality and authenticity of their products or services. Through a rigorous registration process and maintaining the integrity of the certification program, businesses can build trust with consumers and stand out in the market.

If you’re considering creating, using, and or registering a certification mark, Brient IP is here to help you navigate the nuances of that process from start to finish to ensure that your desired mark is valid, strong, and clear for use and to ensure the best possibility that you get your desired mark registered. Please reach out anytime.

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