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Trade marks help protect elements of your business’ branding. However, you can also utilise them to protect the goods or services that a group of businesses (or other parties) may provide. This kind of trade mark is a collective mark. For guidance, this article will provide some background on the matter and explain what a collective mark is in New Zealand.

How Do Trade Marks Generally Work?

Firstly, a general explanation of how trade marks work in New Zealand may be helpful. As a type of intellectual property right, owning a trade mark can be a valuable asset for your business or organisation. Trade marks serve as a “badge of origin” for your business, linking you to the goods or services you provide. Therefore, often they form a part of a business’ branding.

For instance, businesses will often register their name or logo as a trade mark.

Trade marks can include the following aspects:

  • words;
  • phrases;
  • symbols;
  • shapes;
  • colours;
  • smells;
  • sounds; or
  • a combination of these.

The owner of a trade mark gains exclusive rights concerning what goods or services the trade mark protects. These rights result in numerous benefits, including:

  • exclusive use of and profit from the trade mark; and
  • the ability to pursue third parties for trade mark infringement.

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What Is a Collective Mark?

A collective mark is a type of trade mark that indicates you as the origin of your goods or services. However, collective marks are specialised because they indicate members of a collective association as the provider of goods or services. This means multiple businesses or parties can use this trade mark in trade as long as they are a member of the organisation that owns it.

For instance, a cooperative or union may register a collective mark to protect their members’ goods or services.

Notably, a collective trade mark needs to distinguish between the goods and services that your collective association’s members provide and those of businesses or parties outside of your association.

A collective mark can be beneficial for numerous reasons. You can use it like a trade mark to generate customer trust and goodwill. If customers already trust a business using a collective mark, they may be more likely to purchase goods or services from other businesses also using that collective mark.

For example, a group of local professionals (such as accountants or architects) may register a collective mark for their organisation. This process can indicate to customers that they can expect similar quality standards from members of this organisation, due to its reputation.

How Can I Register a Collective Mark?

The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) manages trade mark registration in New Zealand. This includes organisations wishing to register a collective mark. The application process is very similar to the usual process for a standard trade mark. Your collective mark will need to meet similar eligibility criteria, but there are a few key differences. Most importantly, if your group wants to register your own collective mark, you must be a “collective association”. To qualify, your association must:

  • exist for the joint benefit of your members; and
  • have a clear way of indicating membership at any time.

You will need to provide information about your collective mark itself. On top of that, your association is the owner of the collective mark, so you will also need to provide information about your group itself, proving the above requirements. Examples of this could include:

  • whether you have a list of members;
  • where the list of members exists;
  • how often you update your members’ list;
  • if you have any conditions or requirements for members using the collective mark; and
  • whether the rules for using the collective mark are the same as the general rules for being a member of your association.

Having rules for your members’ usage of the collective mark would be a good idea. However, your organisation is responsible for ensuring that your members comply with any rules you set.

Key Takeaways

Trade marks provide exclusive and beneficial rights for those that own them. A collective mark is a kind of trade mark that an association can own. This means that members of the association can use the collective mark in trade with the goods or services they provide.

If you need help with your collective mark, our experienced trade mark lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is an intellectual property right to protect signs that distinguish your business from others. These usually form a part of your brand, such as your business name or logo.

What is a collective mark?

A collective mark is a trade mark that a collective association owns. Members of that association can use that collective mark to distinguish their goods from others.

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