Certification Marks in India: What You Need to Know


The recent jurisprudential developments in trademark law around the world have led to the addition of non-conventional marks (eg, sound marks, smell marks and colour marks) to the trademark family. These non-conventional marks have been recognised as trademarks as they fulfil the quintessential characteristics of trademarks – namely, acting as a source identifier for relevant goods and services, and distinguishing one proprietor from another in the market. However, not all trademarks portray such stereotypical characteristics: certification marks are an exception.

What are certification marks?

Certification marks are essentially trademarks that are used to certify that the goods or services on which they are affixed comply with certain quality standards prescribed by a certifying entity. Such certifying entities, upon the fulfilment of these quality standards, license the certification mark to be used. By indicating that certain standards are met (eg, in respect of origin, material, mode of manufacture of goods or performance of services, quality or accuracy) a certification mark plays the crucial role of instilling legal assurance and acts as evidence that such goods or services are up to certain standards and quality. Due to its characteristic of essentially instilling confidence among consumers, a certification mark is often referred to as a “mark of validity” or a “mark of assurance”.


A certification mark denotes certain characteristics or qualities of a certain product or service. A few examples are shown in Figures 1-4 below.


In India, like in other countries, the registered proprietors of certification marks are not allowed to use them in relation to goods or services that they themselves offer. Such proprietors can only license the certification marks – that is, authorise others to use them while ensuring that they observe due compliance with the standards of quality and assurance as set by the proprietors.