Last updated: 
20 June 2018

A certification trade mark identifies goods or services that possess a particular standard or characteristic. Standards commonly certified include quality, content, manufacturing method and geographic origin.

In Australia certification trade marks are also one of the two main ways that geographical indications are protected. Geographical indications for wine can also be registered through Wine Australia.

While a standard trade mark is used to distinguish one trader’s goods or services from those of another trader, a Certification Trade Mark is used by authorised users to guarantee that the goods or services possess a particular standard. For example, the Australian Made, Australian Grown certification trade mark is used by more than 1700 companies on over 10,000 products sold globally.

Applying for a certified trade mark

Applying to use a certification trade mark is similar to applying for an ordinary trade mark. However, in addition to the normal process, a copy of the certification trade mark’s set of rules must be supplied. This should be done when the application is made or as soon as possible after it is made.

Certification trade marks are subject to an initial examination and assessment by IP Australia. This will assess the distinctiveness of the application as well as any potential similarity to existing trade marks IP Australia will also ensure that the accompanying certification rules are fit for assessment and consideration by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

IP Australia will do a preliminary assessment of a certification trade mark before sending it to the ACCC to finalise. 

Rules for a certification trade mark

A certification trade mark’s rules must cover:

  • the standards that goods or services must meet
  • the method for determining if the standards have been met
  • the requirements an approved certifier must meet
  • the requirements the owner of the certification trade mark, or an approved user, must meet
  • any other requirements for the use of the certification trade mark
  • the procedure for resolving a dispute about whether goods or services meet the certification standards
  • the procedure for resolving any other issue regarding the certification trade mark

See a full list of certification trade marks in Australia, and their associated rules. A ‘Certification trade mark rules checklist’ is also available on the ACCC website.

ACCC's role

The ACCC considers various aspects of the certification trade mark, including the effectiveness of the rules and the effect the certification scheme is likely to have. The ACCC may ask for changes to the rules before they will approve them.
The role of the ACCC is described in more detail in the brochure: Certification Trade Marks - the role of the ACCC

Example of a certification trade mark

The Woolmark logo has been applied to more than 5 billion products since the creation of the original mark in 1964.

Owned by The Woolmark Company, the Woolmark logo certifies that the fabric used in the product is 100 per cent pure new wool. The marks provide consumers with guaranteed fibre content and an assurance of quality.

To carry the Woolmark logo, a product must be tested at an independent Authorised Laboratory and approved by The Woolmark Company. Woolmark licensees are permitted to use the logos, provided their product fulfils the company’s specifications.