Collective Marks

A “collective mark” is a trademark or service mark used by members of a cooperative, an association, or collective organization.

Section 45 of the Lanham Act allows trademark registration for “collective marks.” A collective mark is any trademark or service mark used by a group or association. Examples of collectives that may own a collective mark are unions, trade associations, and agricultural coops. A famous collective service mark is REALTORS, which is owned by the National Association of Realtors.

The text from Section 45 of the Lanham Act defining Collective Marks

There are two different types of collective marks. The first is collective trademarks and service marks. An example of a collective service mark would be GOT MILK? which is owned by the California Milk Processor Board and is registered for “association services provided to fluid milk producers in the state of California; namely, the advertising and promotion of the sale and use of fluid milk.” In other words, a group of dairy farmers pooled their money together to create advertisements for milk.

A 2005 specimen for the GOT MILK? trademark, registration number 1903870

The second type of collective mark is a collective membership mark. Collective membership marks designate individual members of a particular group. Collective membership marks, unlike other trademarks, can be owned by organizations that never use the mark in connection with selling goods or services, such as fraternities. If a person is using a collective membership mark and is not an actual member, the group can take legal action against the person and get an injunction forcing him or her to stop.

Are you a knucklehead and like riding motorcycles? Join the KNUCKLEHEADS R/C group and you can have this sweet patch on your motorcycle jacket letting everyone know your part of the gang!

Collective marks are treated by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) the same as any other trademark. For example, trademark applications for collective marks must indicate who owns the mark (usually the association or collective organization, identify the goods or services provided under the mark (unless it is a collective membership mark), provide a specimen before the mark can be registered and all the other standard requirements.

In addition to receiving the same treatment from the USPTO as any other trademark, collective marks are provided any common law trademark rights and protections that would be afforded to any trademark. It is especially important for associations to register collective marks because it will determine who owns the trademark before an ownership battle of the trademark begins.

Do you have any questions about collective marks or want your own group or organization to file for a collective mark registration with the USPTO? Leave a comment or contact us today.

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