If you are a small business owner who specialises in food products, then you are probably aware of how important it is to distinguish your products from competitors’. One way to do this is to use certification trade marks.

Certification trade marks can show your customers that your products are of a higher quality than competitors’ or have unique characteristics. Well-known examples in the food industry include certified organic foods and free range eggs. This article will explain how certification trade marks can help your food product business and what the process is to apply for one.

What is a Certification Trade Mark?

Certification trade marks certify that a product:

  • meets a particular standard (for example, the Glycemic Index Foundation uses certification trade marks to identify food products that meet strict nutritional guidelines);
  • has been made in a particular location or using a particular process (for example, Roquefort cheese must come from the Roquefort region in France);
  • meets religious standards (for example, Halal certified foods);
  • uses ethically sourced ingredients (for example, certified Fairtrade foods); or
  • uses ingredients suitable for particular dietary requirements (for example, foods with the Certified Vegan Logo).

How Are Certification Trade Marks Used?

Standard trade marks and certification trade marks have different purposes. A standard trade mark distinguishes your brand from other brands, whereas a certification trade mark shows that your product meets a certain standard.

For example, ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s products carry the Fairtrade logo as well as the company’s own trade marked logo. The Ben & Jerry’s logo distinguishes the brand and the Fairtrade logo identifies a characteristic of the product.

Unlike standard trade marks, many brands may use the same certified trade mark. Any product that meets the standards set by the certification trade mark is permitted to use it. For example, many separate Australian businesses use the Australian Made logo.

However, there are comparatively few certification trade marks in use in Australia. There are over 600,000 registered standard trade marks in Australia, but there are only around 500 registered certification trade marks.

Compliance With Standards

Especially within the food industry, showing consumers that your products or services meet certain standards is very important.

For example, using labels like gluten-free, organic or fair trade can help your products to appeal to a broader range of consumers. A rise in consumer awareness of health and dietary concerns means that consumers are making increasingly conscious food choices. Showing careful consumers that your products meet their expectations or dietary requirements can increase your reach in a crowded marketplace.

Differentiating Your Product Through Certification Trade Marks

Using certification trade marks can also help your products to stand out. For example, consumers may choose to buy your products over your competitors’ if you have sourced the ingredients ethically. Today’s consumers are much more interested in where and how their food has been produced. By showing these consumers that your business has high ethical standards, you can add value to your brand and distinguish your products.

How to Apply for a Certification Trade Mark

Like ordinary trade mark applications, IP Australia assesses certification trade mark applications. Along with a standard application, you must provide rules that explain how to use your certification trade mark. IP Australia will consider these rules before it sends them on to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The ACCC may ask you to make some changes to the rules before it approves them. This may happen if the ACCC believes that the rules you have provided:

  • fail to cover any required content;
  • raise any concerns relating to competition in the marketplace;
  • contain product safety concerns; or
  • would be detrimental to the public.

To ensure that your rules are approved, consult the ACCC’s certification trade mark rules checklist. Generally, your certification trade mark rules must cover:

  • the standards that a certified product must meet and how to determine if the product has met them;
  • the standards that you must meet as the owner of the certified trade mark;
  • how to resolve disputes relating to the certification trade mark; and
  • any other requirements for the use of your certified trade mark.

Key Takeaways

If you own a small food business, you should consider using certification trade marks. Certifying that your food products meet certain standards can give your brand a competitive edge and allow you to reach more consumers. Well-known symbols such as the Fairtrade mark and the Australian Made logo can give your consumers confidence in the quality of your products.

If you have any questions, you can contact LegalVision’s intellectual property lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.
June Ahern

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