Collective marks do not differentiate the products or services of their holder, but the products or services of the members who belong to the association or group holding the mark.
When production of a product is very limited, with low economic impact, or because the product’s particular characteristics prevent it becoming a protected geographic indication, then the collective mark becomes important.
We could sometimes ask why parmesan cheese is known throughout the world, and the cheese made in our own town, following an age-old technique with the best milks, has no importance outside the district.
The reason may lie in the product’s promotion and therefore, in the limited individual financial capacity of each producer to promote it.
We could mention the case of the Halloumi trade mark, which takes the name of a cheese from Cyprus. It is protected as Designation of Origin in the USA, but not in Europe, where there is a conflict between the farmers over the percentage of cow’s milk which it must contain.
While this issue is being resolved, and in order to protect it against possible imitators, they decided to apply for a community collective mark.
The main advantage which these marks have is that, unlike individual marks, the signs and indications which may serve in business to indicate the geographic origin of the products or services can be constituted as community collective marks.
It is important to know that community collective marks can only be applied for by associations of manufacturers, producers, service providers or traders.
Consequently, the cost of applying for and defending the registration, as well as commercial promotion, will be much lower for the members of the association holding the mark.
In order to regulate the conditions of use of collective marks and those authorised to use it, "regulations governing use" are required to establish the common requirements for the product or services making up the mark, guaranteeing quality for the consumer or sanctions for those who do not comply.
It therefore shares the characteristics of the so-called "certification marks" present in other legislations, with the holder not being able to prevent use of the mark by any producer or service provider who meets all the conditions included in the regulations governing use.
In the same way as an individual mark, a community collective mark must meet the same use requirements as any community mark, that is, it must be put to genuine use in the European Union in the five years following its registration.
A community collective mark, however, only needs to be used by any one of the authorised parties for this requirement to be met.
Community collective marks are therefore an excellent tool to promote products or services of small and medium-sized companies from a specific geographical area, offering them a competitive advantage in the European Union.