Collective Mark

Definition

A type of trademark used by members of a collective, association, or other organization to indicate membership and/or to distinguish the goods and services of members from those of non-members.

Overview

A collective mark is a type of trademark that may be registered and protected under the Lanham Act.  See 15 U.S.C. § 1127.  Two distinctly different types of collective mark are included under the Lanham Act: collective marks and collective membership marks.

Collective Marks:  The term "collective mark" includes both trademarks and service marks.  The Lanham Act describes a "collective" as a cooperative, association, or other collective group or organization; fraternal organizations and unions are both considered to be collectives.  The mark adopted by a particular collective is only available for use by its members.  See 15 U.S.C. § 1127.

The members of a collective use its mark to identify their goods and services and distinguish them from those of non-members.  The collective itself does not offer goods or services under the mark, but may advertise or otherwise promote goods and services bearing its mark.  If a collective offers its own goods and services under the mark, it is not considered a collective mark; it is a trademark for the goods and services offered by the organized collective.

Collective Membership Marks:  The second type of mark recognized as a collective mark under the Lanham Act is the "collective membership mark."  The collective membership mark is unique among those marks protected under the Lanham Act in that it is not used in commerce to distinguish the source or origin of goods or services; its sole purpose is to identify the person displaying the mark as a member of the organized collective.

To qualify as a collective membership mark, the mark must be in general use by members of the collective for the purpose of indicating membership.  Use of the mark on items such as membership cards, wall plaques, personal rings or other jewelry that is available to all members is required to support registration of a collective membership mark.  Occasional or personal use by individual members, or use of the mark on an item that is available only to a specific member or group of members is not sufficient to support federal registration.

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