In contrast to the individual trade mark, this new trade mark category focuses on the guarantee function; that means that it is not about distinguishing the goods or services of a particular manufacturer or supplier from those of another manufacturer or supplier (as in the case of the individual trade mark), but about certifying a specific characteristic for the goods or services marked with it. This certifying nature must derive directly from the sign of the certification mark.
The compulsory regulations governing use must specify the characteristics to be certified by the certification mark as well as the relevant test and supervision measures and the conditions of use.
The main features of the certification mark are:
- Neutrality – The proprietor of the mark as a kind of neutral body is meant to be able to certify certain characteristics of goods or services by means of the certification mark – therefore, the proprietor of the mark must not himself be a manufacturer, trader or supplier of the goods and/or services in question; the proprietor of the mark and the user of the mark must be independent of each other both legally and commercially.
- Supervision/control – The useful certification of specific characteristics of goods or services is only possible in a sensible way if compliance with the characteristics certified is tested and supervised and the authorisation to use the mark depends on this. The proprietor guarantees the presence of and compliance with the characteristics of the goods/services certified.
- Transparency – The exact characteristics to be certified by the certification mark, as well as the test and supervision measures, which ensure the permanent presence of the characteristics, should be recognisable and transparent for consumers. The regulations governing use, which must contain this information, are entered in the register and are thus accessible to everyone.