What are the different types of marks?

The word "trademark" actually applies to several types of business marks. These include: trademarks, service marks, certification marks, and collective marks.

Trademarks and Service Marks 

A trademark is used to connect the producer or inventor of an item to the product, such as associating Coca-Cola with caramel colored soft drinks. Trademarks include any word, name, symbol, logo or device. Basically, it is a brand name and advertising tool. A service mark is used to identify and distinguish the provider of one service from another. An example is the national cleaning service brand, Merry Maids.

Trademarks and service marks are essentially the same, except one is used to identify a service and the other is used to identify a product. There was a time when trademark law only allowed infringement actions for marks related to products. That has since changed as services have become more distinct and unique in nature.

Certification Marks

Certification marks are a bit more complicated. Rather than being associated with a single service provider or producer, certification marks are used to certify the quality, accuracy or performance of a service or product. They can add veracity to the origin of a product, how it was produced or whether it was made by members of a union or other organization.

Certification marks can be used by the owner or by someone other than the owner, with permission. One example of a certification mark is the “Idaho” symbol on bags of potatoes indicating that the contents were grown in the state of Idaho. Another is the “UL” on electrical products that indicate certification of performance and safety by Underwriters Limited.

Collective Marks

A collective mark is a mark used by individuals and businesses to indicate membership in an association, union, collective or cooperative. It is used to indicate that a product or service adheres to the standards of that organization or provides a set of benefits unique to that association. The Girl Scouts and American Automobile Association (“AAA”) are examples of collective marks. 

If you have further questions about kinds of trademarks, be sure to consult an intellectual property attorney in your area.