In the dynamic world of global trade and commerce, certification trademarks serve as essential tools for maintaining standards, guaranteeing quality, and conveying trust to consumers.

Certification trademarks are special types of trademarks that signify that the goods or services bearing the mark meet certain standards or criteria set by the certifying body owning the mark.

For example, that the goods or services come from a specific geographic region, example, CHAMPAGNE.

The goods or services meet standards with respect to quality, materials, or how they are manufactured, examples, UL, UPC, CE, or Bluetooth.

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. The Woolmark logo certifies that products are made with 100% wool, while Fair Trade certification indicates adherence to ethical and fair labor practices.

Unlike traditional trademarks, which identify the commercial source of goods or services, certification marks are used by authorized manufacturers or service providers, not the certifying entity itself.

Challenges at the Border

When it comes to international trade, one of the most significant challenges companies face is the unauthorized use of their certification trademarks. This issue is particularly acute at the border, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the authority to detain, seize, forfeit, and ultimately destroy merchandise seeking entry into the United States if it bears an infringing trademark or copyright that has been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or the U.S. Copyright Office (USCOP), and has subsequently been recorded with CBP.

A common predicament for US companies manufacturing abroad is the unintentional inclusion of certification marks on their products, a mistake often discovered only when goods are detained by CBP.

The global nature of supply chains adds another layer of complexity. Goods may be manufactured in one country, certified in another, and then shipped through multiple jurisdictions before reaching the United States, making it challenging to trace the origin and verify compliance with certification standards.

To effectively navigate these challenges, companies should consider the following strategies:

Proactive Registration and Recording: Ensure that certification trademarks are not only registered with the USPTO but also recorded with the CBP.

Monitoring: Vigilantly monitor overseas manufacturers to prevent the erroneous application of certification marks on products.

Education and Training: Provide manufacturers with training and resources to recognize certification trademarks and understand compliance criteria. For non-owners of certification marks, instruct manufacturers on which marks should not be included on products.

Certification trademarks are pivotal in the global marketplace, but safeguarding these marks at international borders demands a sophisticated strategy. Understanding the challenges and implementing effective measures can bolster the protection of certification trademarks and avert costly errors at the border.

I have assisted numerous businesses in protecting their trademarks and facilitating their recording with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). I’d like to help you too!