A certification trade mark shows that a trader's goods and services meet an official set of standards. Standards commonly certified include quality, content, manufacturing method and geographic origin.
The same certification trade mark can be used by different traders or groups of traders on their goods and services. For example, the Australian Made, Australian Grown trade mark is used by more than 1700 companies on over 10,000 products sold globally.
Certification trade marks are an ideal way to protect geographical indications (GIs) in a variety of areas including wine and spirits as well as other goods like meat and dairy products. Examples of GIs protected as certification trade marks in Australia are Parma for ham, Darjeeling for tea, Parmigiano Reggiano for cheese and Scotch Whisky and Tequila for spirits. More information on GIs can be found here.
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.
Unlike some jurisdictions, there is no longer a prohibition under Australian trade mark law against the applicant or owner’s own use of a certification trade mark. A prohibition on traders registering certification trade marks for their own goods meant that in some cases the owner of foreign appellation of origin or GI would not be entitled to be the owner of a corresponding certification trade mark registration in Australia.
The owner of the certification trade mark, or an approved certifier, will ensure the good or service complies with the set of certification rules. Furthermore, the application and the rules must also be approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Rules for a certification trade mark
The rules for the use of a certification trade mark must specify as a minimum:
- 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.
A full list of certification trade marks in Australia, and their associated rules, can be found here.
For more on the requirements that certification trade mark rules must meet, see the ‘Certification trade mark rules checklist’ on the ACCC website.
Role of the ACCC
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.
Woolmark - an example of a certification trade mark
As one of the world’s most well-known brands, 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.