What is a Certification Trademark?
A certification trade mark is a registered intellectual property right that signifies the bearer of the trade mark has met an official standard. It is a special type of trademark that is used or intended to be used, to distinguish goods or services that have been certified as having a particular quality or characteristic from goods or services that have not been certified.
Certification Mark v Trade Mark
A certification mark is a form of trademark but is distinguished from standard trade marks.
A certification mark is generally exclusively licensed out to third party manufacturers and services providers, who are subjected to comply with a set of standards in order to be permitted to hold the specific certification trademark advertising to consumers that the product/service to which the certification mark is applied is of a particular standard. Common examples of certification marks are: ‘Australian made’, ‘Halal certified’ and ‘Australian grown’. On the other hand, a standard trademark is used exclusively by the registered owners of the trademark for the purpose of distinguishing the product or services.
Essentially, trade marks are a badge of origin representing a product or company, whereas certification marks indicate that those products or services have been certified as having a particular characteristic.
Certification Mark Application Process
If you would like to use a certification mark, you are required to make an application for registration to IP Australia. IP Australia will then have a trademark examiner assess the proposed trademark to see if it passess the general threshold requirements for registration of a trade mark.
The application process is very similar to the standard trademark process, however, applicants for a certification mark must also file with IP Australia a copy of the Certification Rules that apply to the license of the certificate mark to third parties.
The Certification Rules are the standards which applicants of the certification mark must comply with prior to being granted a license to use it. The Certification Rules are public documents accessible, without charge, at the IP Australia website. The Certification Rules must comply with section 173 of the Trade Marks Act 1995.
Within this process, a copy of the Certification Rules will be forwarded to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), who will examine if the rules:
- comply with the relevant trademark legislation
- meet requirements that the particular goods/services must meet in order to use the certification mark
- are not against the public interest with regard to issues such as competition, unconscionable conduct, unfair practices, product safety or product information.
When the ACCC is satisfied, upon this criteria, they will then issue a certificate to this effect permitting the Registrar of trademarks to accept the application for registration.
Once accepted, the certification mark will be advertised for approximately five months allowing third parties to lodge any possible objection to the registration. Where no objections are made, or any objections that are made are resolved, the certification mark will be registered at the close of the five month period.
Certification Marks can reinforce public confidence in your product and services. The marks can provide consumers with guarantees indicating the particular standard of your goods. However, registering a certification mark can involve considerable time and cost due to the administrative overhead in the registration process as the certification rules have to be approved by the ACCC. Thus, assess carefully whether obtaining a certification mark is worthwhile.