Certification Marks Useful To Trade Associations, Charities And For-Profits (Part 1)
February 21, 2014 by Barbara Berschler
One good method for a trade association, charitable organization or for-profit entity to expand its mission while simultaneously generating additional revenues is to establish a certification program.
The entity wishing to set up a certification program (the “certifier”) would require an “applicant” wishing to acquire new skills to demonstrate competence in a particular field by meeting the standards set by the certifier. Once a course or test was successfully completed, the certifier would then allow the applicant to use the certifier’s certification mark, in other words its “seal of approval.” (Think of the quintessential “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”)
By adopting a certification program, the certifier has taken steps not only to improve the standards of performance within its area of interest but also to create a new source of revenue generated from any training or monitoring it requires to maintain quality controls.
The breadth of activity that lends itself to the adoption of a certification program is huge. Based on a recent review of the records of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), there were more than 10,000 live records for applications and registrations of certification marks. (Examples of certification marks) This suggests that many organizations recognize the value of running such programs.
If your company is considering incorporating a certification program into your general mission, a critical element is the selection of the designation (i.e., the certification mark itself), which a successful applicant may use to show its level of competence.
So. . . what exactly is a certification mark? It can be any word, name, symbol, device or combination of same which is used by a person other than the owner of the mark to certify (a) to regional or other origin; (b) to the material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy or other characteristics of such person’s good or services; or (c) that the work or labor on goods or services was performed by members of a union or other organization. . . . .” (Applicable USPTO regulations.)
A distinct message is conveyed by a certification mark which differs from that of an identification mark that informs the consuming public of the source of the goods or services which they are buying (GM versus Ford; Apple versus Samsung). When the consumer sees a certification mark, the mark signifies that the goods or services have been examined, tested or inspected by someone other than the entity displaying the mark and that the independent standards of the marks’ owner have been met.
In my next blog, I will cover some basics principals to aid in the design and protection of your organization’s certification mark.