A certification mark is a type of trademark that is used to show consumers that particular goods and/or services, or their providers, have met certain standards.
Certification marks show that:
1. The goods or services come from a specific geographic region, as shown by the examples of registered certification marks below.1
2. The goods or services meet standards with respect to quality, materials, or how they are manufactured, as shown by the examples of registered certification marks below.2
3. The work or labor on the goods or services was performed by a union member or member of another organization or the provider of those services met certain standards, as shown by the examples of registered certification marks below.3
How does a certification mark differ from a trademark?
A certification mark shows that goods, services, or providers of those goods and/or services have met certain standards. A trademark, however, shows the commercial source or brand of particular goods or services.
For example, if the HOOVER registered trademark below4 appears on a vacuum cleaner, it identifies the commercial source or brand of a particular vacuum cleaner. However, if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR registered certification mark5 below appears on a vacuum cleaner, it means the EPA certifies that the HOOVER® vacuum cleaner has met certain energy efficiency standards. The EPA is not providing the vacuum cleaner; it is just certifying that the vacuum cleaner met certain standards once it was tested at the HOOVER company’s request. A HOOVER® vacuum cleaner most likely would have both the HOOVER® trademark and the ENERGY STAR® certification mark on it. These two types of marks perform different functions and communicate different kinds of information to a consumer purchasing a vacuum cleaner.
See the EPA’s registered certification mark and the HOOVER company’s trademark below.6
Another difference between a certification mark and a trademark is the person or company that uses it. The certifying organization that owns the certification mark controls who can use the mark, but the certifying organization generally does not use the certification mark with the goods or services. The certifying organization will let providers use its certification mark only if the goods, services, or their providers meet the organization’s standards. In the example above, the EPA owns the ENERGY STAR® certification mark but lets the HOOVER company use the ENERGY STAR® certification mark if the HOOVER® vacuum cleaners meet the EPA standards.
For more information about differences between certification marks and trademarks, see the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) §§1306.01, 1306.01(a), 1301.06(b).
1Left to right: U.S. Registration Nos. 4970062, 4221402, and 4393128. 2Clockwise from top: U.S. Registration Nos. 4754199, 3715921, and 4204983. 3Left to right: U.S. Registration Nos. 5198466, 3724311, and 3566326. 4U.S. Registration No. 5151320. 5U.S. Registration No. 3569551. 6Left to right: U.S. Registration Nos. 3569551 and 5151320.
DISCLAIMER: References to particular trademarks, service marks, certification marks, products, services, companies, and/or organizations appearing on this page are for illustrative and educational purposes only and do not constitute or imply endorsement by the U.S. Government, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or any other federal agency.