Although the precise meaning may differ from one jurisdiction to another, collective trademarks are typically thought to be signs that differentiate the geographical source, quality of goods, material and/or method of manufacture of goods or services of an enterprise.

Usually collectives, cooperatives, organisations or unions use these marks, for example. One such example would be the CA used to represent chartered accountants. These types of marks suggest that the smaller companies that form part of larger organisations have the same goals and objectives and benefit partly from their membership of these larger parent companies.

These marks are, more often than not, used on goods and services. When these collective marks are used on a product or service, it indicates to others that they’re essentially members of the larger parent company. This will tell consumers that the quality of the goods or services is that of the larger parent company.

Who is allowed to apply for collective trademarks?

Any association can make an application for a collective trademark. It does not need to be an incorporated entity. When applying, however, the application must be made in the name of the parent company or organisation to which the applicant is supposed to a member. Collective trademarks are not assignable, not transferable and not saleable, meaning they would be inappropriate for regular businesses who would benefit more from a regular trademark.

While ordinarily the trademark would act as an indication of the origin or source of the goods or services, collective marks act in a similar way to certification marks. They are exceptions to this general principle of trademarks. Another similarity between collective marks and certification marks would be that the applicant seeking to register the mark is not usually the person or business seeking to use the mark. In fact, collective marks are sometimes not even expected to be used by the organizations who own them. Rather, these marks are used by a multitude of member businesses.

Is there a difference between certification marks and collective marks?

There is certainly an important difference between the two types of marks. On one hand, the members of a specific organization, like Chartered Accountants, for instance, use collective trademarks. On the other hand, any trader that complies with the quality standards that are attached to the right to use a certification mark is entitled to its use.

How do you apply?

In most jurisdictions around the world, to apply for a collective trademark the application must also have a copy of any regulations that dictate how, when and by whom the mark can be used. Collective marks are unique in that they are not to be licenced to other businesses. Similar to regular trademarks, collective trademarks require renewal fees to be paid to keep them valid.


Are you confused about which mark you should be applying for? Unsure whether you’re entitled to use a collective mark? Speak with a trademark attorney today to clarify your concerns. LegalVision have a team of lawyers ready to assist.

Lachlan McKnight
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