Collective Marks: When Your Group Wants to Protects its Name

A collective mark is a symbol, label, word, phrase, or other distinguishing mark that signifies membership in an organization (a collective membership mark) or that identifies goods or services that originate from the member organization (a collective trademark). For example, the letters ILGWU on a shirt are a collective mark identifying the shirt  as a product of members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. It distinguishes that shirt from those made by nonunion shops. Another example of a collective membership mark is the familiar FTD found in many flower shops. This mark means that the flower shop is part of a group that participates in a national flower delivery system. To belong to that group—and thus obtain authorization to use the FTD mark—the shop must pay steep membership fees and conform its practices to the rules set out by the group. 

Collective marks can function as trademarks

A collective mark can also function as a trademark or service mark, signifying that a product or service originates from an organization. If you are a member of a group or organization (for example, “THE MAINE CRAFTS GUILD”), you probably want to limit use of the name to members of the guild. You don’t want nonmembers to use the name (that would undermine the group’s standards), and you don’t want another club to use the same name. In order to protect your group’s right to the mark, you should federally register your group name as a collective mark.

The collective mark is owned by the organization (not by any particular member). The MAINE CRAFTS GUILD collective mark could be used to sell member products (selected crafts works) or offer services (knitting lessons). In other words, a collective mark can be used in two ways: to signify membership or as a trademark. To federally register your organization’s collective mark, visit the USPTO website (www.uspto.gov). Go to the home page, click Trademarks, click “Filing Online.” 

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