Collective Marks

Lia Kopin-Green
August 16, 2022

What are Collective Marks

Collective marks are a type of trademark that identifies members of a collective group or organization. Members of the collective also use the collective mark to identify and distinguish products and services of members from those of non-members. Associations, organizations, unions and public institutions are all considered collectives. Certain words, symbols, and phrases may be used as collective marks. 

These trademarks can only be used by members of the organization that registered them, and even if the mark is used by members of the collective, the collective itself still holds the rights to it.

Key Takeaways

  • A collective mark typically identifies and distinguishes the products and services of its members from those of non-members.
  • The term "collective" refers to associations, organizations, unions, public institutions and other similar groups.
  • There are two main types of collective marks: collective trademarks and collective membership marks.
  • No one can use the same mark as both a collective mark and a certification mark.

Types of Collective Marks

Collective marks are generally placed into two different categories: collective trademarks and collective membership marks. These two types of marks are quite similar, but they do have some significant differences. 

A collective mark, also known as a service mark, is used by the members of a collective to distinguish its goods and services from non-members. In these cases, only members of the collective are permitted to sell and advertise products under the mark. Girl Scouts cookies are an example of a collective mark. Cookies with the Girl Scouts trademark can only be sold and advertised by members of the Girl Scouts.

On the other hand, members of certain collective groups are often identified by collective membership marks. Unlike collective marks, membership marks are not used to indicate certain products or services. Instead, the trademark instead members of the group and prevents non-members from using it. A well-known example of a collective membership mark is the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The mark is used to identify members of the church.

Registering Collective Marks

Collective marks can be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Applications can be found on the USPTO website, although you may want to consider completing this form with a trusted intellectual property attorney.

Applicants must demonstrate who is permitted to use the mark and how membership of the collective will be monitored and enforced. As part of the application, the applicant must also submit a copy of the regulations that govern the use of collective marks.

Bottom Line

Collective marks are an essential element of intellectual property law that offer plenty of advantages to associations, organizations, unions, and more. However, IP law can be complicated, and it is always advised to work alongside a skilled attorney who is familiar with all of the ins and outs of trademarks. If you are interested in registering a collective mark and want to learn more about the process, reach out to an intellectual property lawyer.

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