Trademark FAQ & As: What is a Certification Mark?

By Doni Robinson


A certification mark is a type of trademark used to show consumers that particular goods and/or services, or their providers, have met certain standards. A standard service mark (i.e. the more common type of trademark) serves to indicate source of particular goods and services; certification marks, however, are used on a variety of different producers of good and services. 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, means the goods/services have been certified by someone other than the producer (or source) and that the prescribed characteristics or qualifications of the certifier for those goods or services have been met. Those whose goods/services meet the prescribed standards are known as “authorized users” and are able to include the certification mark on their goods/services to inform consumers of their certification.

There are typically three types of certification marks: 1) geographic origin: used to certify that authorized users’ goods or services originate in a specific geographic region; 2) standards met with respect to quality, materials, or mode of manufacturer; and 3) work/labor performed by a member or worker that meets certain standards.

When companies have worked to achieve certain standards, they can use a certification mark to show consumers they employ certain methods, workers, or materials to manufacture their products, or to confirm to consumers that their food has indeed come from a specific region. Certification marks are important because consumers have a desire to know that certain products meet desired standards. This can help to inform a consumer whether cheese originates from a specific geographic region, whether their new refrigerator is energy efficient, or whether only certified laborers in a specific industry have manufactured their product.

While a certification mark is still a trademark, there are some key differences between certification marks and standard services marks. For example, a certification mark is not used by its owner, but rather used by authorized users. Certification marks also do not exist to distinguish similar goods/services among various producers/suppliers; in fact, many companies offering similar products may all be using the same certification mark if their products meet the standards to do so. This is because the owner of the certification mark is itself not a producer/supplier of the goods and services.

Jayaram Law has assisted clients in securing certification marks. If you are interested in learning more about certification marks, reach out to a trademark attorney at Jayaram Law.