A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one party from those of others. Where a trademark serves as a source identifier services, you may see it referred to as a service mark. For example, MCDONALDS is used as a trademark for both goods and services. The MCDONALDS service mark covers the brick and mortar retail stores and food services that McDonalds offers to the public. Fun fact: McDonalds once sued a dentist for using the term McDental as a service mark for providing dental services.
In addition to service marks, trademarks may also be certification marks or collective marks. Collective trademarks are owned by a collective, or organization, and the members of that organization use the mark to distinguish their goods and/or services from non-members of the mark. An example of a collective mark is the term REALTOR, which is used to identify members of the National Association of Realtors.
Certification trademarks are used to identify goods and/or services that meet certain specifications or qualifications. The Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure notes that “[a] certification mark does not distinguish between producers, but represents a certification regarding some characteristic that is common to the goods or services of many persons.” TMEP 1306.05 (a). Because of this, certification marks are generally owned by trade groups or trade associations within specific industries.
If you have visited a retailer that sells appliances in its stores, you may have noticed the blue ENERGY STAR logo on several appliances.
The ENERGY STAR certification mark is used with goods that meet the enunciated standard for energy efficient consumer products. The United States Environmental Protection Agency is the entity that owns the certification mark ENERGY STAR.
Certification mark owners are required to monitor use of the trademark to ensure compliance with the standards and quality specifications. If the trademark owner fails to monitor and ensure compliance, the mark may be subject to cancellation.
If you have a question for our trademark lawyers, please contact our office at (214) 295-5070 or via email at [email protected]
Chelsie Spencer is an attorney with Ritter Spencer PLLC. Chelsie handles trademark registration, trademark licensing, trademark maintenance, trademark portfolio management, and trademark litigation, among other trademark services.