A certification mark
on a commercial product indicates five things:
- The existence of a legal follow-up or product certification agreement between the manufacturer of a product and an organisation with national accreditation for both testing and certification,
- Legal evidence that the product was successfully tested in accordance with a nationally accredited standard,
- Legal assurance the accredited certification organisation has ensured that the item that was successfully tested and is identical to that which is being offered for sale,
- Legal assurance that the successful test has resulted in a certification listing, which is considered public information, which sets out the tolerances and conditions of use for the certified product, to enable compliance with the law through listing and approval use and compliance,
- Legal assurance that the manufacturer is being regularly audited by the certification organisation to ensure the maintenance of the original process standard that was employed in the manufacture of the test specimen that passed the test. If the manufacturer should fail an audit, all product that was certified, including labels of stock on hand, on construction sites, with end-user customers and on distributor store shelves, can be mandated by the cirtification organisation in charge to be immediately removed, and can insist that all stakeholders be informed that the de-listed product certification is no longer eligible for use in field installations.
On the part of the certifier, the label itself is a type of trademark whereby the listee, or manufacturer, uses the mark to indicate eligibility of the products for use in field installations in accordance with the requirements of the code, and/or the origin, material, mode of manufacture of products, mode of performance of services, quality, accuracy of other characteristics of products or services.
Certification marks distinguished from other marks
Certification marks differ from collective trade marks
. The main difference is that collective trade marks may be used by particular members of the organization which owns them, while certification marks are the only evidence of the existence of follow-up agreements between manufacturers and nationally accredited testing and certification organisations. Certification organisations charge for the use of their labels and are thus always aware of exact production numbers. In this way, certification organisations can be seen to earn a commission from sales of products under their follow-up regimes. In return, the use of the certification marks enables
the product sales in the first place.
Certification is often mistakenly referred to as an "approval", which is often not true. Organisations such as Underwriters Laboratories, and CSA International for instance, only "list", they do not approve anything except the use of the mark to show that a product has been certified. Thus, for instance a product certification mark for a fire door or for a spray fireproofing product, does not signify its universal acceptance for use within a building. Approvals are up to the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), such as a municipal building inspector or fire prevention officer. Conversely, FM Global does use the term "Approvals" for its certification listings, which are intended for use of the products within buildings that are insured by FM Global. The German accreditor Deutsches Institut für Bautechnik (DIBt) issues "Approvals" for systems. All of these listed products must conform to listing and approval use and compliance.
For various reasons, usually relating to technical issues, certification marks are difficult to register, especially in relation to services. One practical workaround for trade mark owners is to register the mark as an ordinary trade mark in relation to quality control and similar services.
Certification marks can be owned by independent companies absolutely unrelated in ownership to the companies, offering goods or rendering services under the particular certification mark.
Regulations concerning the use of certification marks
Trademark laws in countries which provide for the filing of applications to register certificate marks also usually require the submission of regulations which set out a number of matters, including:
- the people authorised to use the certification mark
- the characteristics to be certified by the certification mark
- how the certifying or standards tests these characteristics and supervises the use of the mark
- dispute resolution procedures
The main purpose of the regulations is to protect consumers against misleading practices.
Examples of certification marks include:
International treaties and certification marks
Many jurisdictions have been required to amend their trade mark legislation
in order to accommodate the requirement of protection of certification marks under TRIPs
Cases involving certification marks include: