Collective Marks

Under the intellectual property law of most countries, there are provisions on the protection of collective marks. Collective marks are usually defined as signs which distinguish the geographical origin, material, mode of manufacture or other common characteristics of goods or services of different enterprises using the collective mark. The owner may be either an association of which those enterprises are members or any other entity, including a public institution or a cooperative.

The owner of the collective mark is responsible for ensuring the compliance with certain standards (usually fixed in the regulations concerning the use of the collective mark) by its members. Thus, the function of the collective mark is to inform the public about certain particular features of the product for which the collective mark is used. Most countries require that an application for a collective mark be accompanied by a copy of the regulations which govern the use of the collective mark.

Collective marks are often used to promote products which are characteristic of a given region. In such cases, the creation of a collective mark has not only helped to market such products domestically and occasionally internationally, but has also provided a framework for cooperation between local producers. The creation of the collective mark, in fact, must go hand in hand with the development of certain standards and criteria and a common strategy. In this sense, collective marks may become powerful tools for local development.

Consider, in particular products which may have certain characteristics which are specific to the producers in a given region, linked to the historical, cultural, social conditions of the area. A collective mark may be used to embody such features and as the basis for the marketing of the said products, thus benefiting all producers.

Associations of SMEs may, therefore, register collective marks in order to jointly market the products of a group of SMEs and enhance product recognition. Collective marks may be used together with the individual trademark of the producer of a given good. This allows companies to differentiate their own products from those of competitors, while at the same time benefiting from the confidence of the consumers in products or services offered under the collective mark.

Collective may therefore represent useful instruments for SMEs assisting them to overcome some of the challenges associated with small size and isolation in the market place. National industrial property offices will be able to provide more information on the procedures for the registration and use of collective and certification marks.

See case studies on "Chirimoya Cumbe" and " APDL Cajamarca" for a practical illustration of how collective marks work in practice.