By Deborah Kirk

European Union (EU) trademark law is currently undergoing significant reform, with the most recent change of particular relevance to certification mark holders or to those interested in applying for certification marks.

The EU-certification mark, introduced on 1 October 2017, widens the categories of trade mark protections that are available at the EU-level. The new mark adds to the collective trade mark and the individual trade mark that were already available at EU-level.

The new mark acts as a badge of quality for consumers; the proprietor of the mark is responsible for certifying that the goods and services applied for comply with the applicable regulatory standards.

The EU-certification marks distinguishing features include:

  • As with the UK certification mark, the proprietor of an EU-certification mark cannot be the supplier of the goods or services being certified, meaning that proprietors will be unable to own or benefit from the goodwill in the mark.
  • An EU-certification mark cannot designate the geographical origin of the goods or services being certified. This contrasts with some national certification marks, such as the UK certification mark that permits geographical indications.

Beneficially, the EU-certification:

  • Provides a competitive advantage to suppliers, who can now show that their goods or services are certified across the EU.
  • Helps to fill the gaps in which Member States do not provide legal protection for certification marks at the national level, and to rectify any inconsistencies between Member States’ laws. For instance, in Germany, the collective mark regime regulates certification marks.

As consumers grow increasingly concerned about the origin and quality of goods and services, the new EU-certification mark may be a welcome addition to the IP armory of accrediting organisations.

This post was prepared with the assistance of Caroline Omotayo in the London office of Latham & Watkins.