What is a certification mark?
A certification mark is a mark used by various merchants to indicate that their products and services have certain characteristics, such as a specific level of product quality or a certain geographic origin (while a geographic term cannot be used as a general trademark or service mark if it merely serves to indicate geographic origin, the same limitation does not apply to certification marks). For example, Underwriters Laboratories is an organization that certifies and tests certain products. Any merchant that sells products which Underwriters Laboratories deals with, such as smoke detectors, can submit those products for inspection. If the products pass Underwriters Laboratories’ safety requirements, the merchant can use the UL mark in connection with the products to indicate Underwriters Laboratories’ certification.
For a certification mark to be valid and enforceable, the owner of the mark cannot use it with their own goods and services. Instead, the owner can only authorize others to use it. In addition, the owner has to oversee others’ use of the certification mark to ensure that the mark is being properly used. While these certification marks are very similar to collective trademarks and collective service marks, it should be noted that certification marks are owned by an individual entity and can be used by anyone who meets the certification standards, whereas collective marks are owned by a group and can only be used by members of that group.