Home » What’s the Difference Between Geographical Indicators and Certification Marks?

What’s the Difference Between Geographical Indicators and Certification Marks?

What is a Geographical Indicator?

Articles 22 to 24 of TRIPS deals with GI tags. These articles require countries to provide legal means of giving protection to a good originating from a particular territory of a country, region or specific locality in that territory. 

India adopted the Geographical Indications Act in 1999, resulting in the protection of the famous indigenous tea from Darjeeling, allowing it to be exclusively sold as Darjeeling Tea. Other examples include the Bhagalpur Silk originating from Bhagalpur and the Mysore Silk from Mysore. GIs allow agricultural goods and traditional handicrafts originating from the place of origin to be legally protected. GI tags include the name of the particular place of origin- which is why they are called geographical indicators.

Champagne pouring on glass

What is a Certification Trademark?

A certification trademark, as the name indicates, is a mark that certifies the nature or origin of the goods or services to which it has been applied. The proprietor in the case of a Certification Trade Mark will certify specific standards of the origin, material, mode of manufacture of goods or performance of services, quality, accuracy or other characteristics.

Certification marks are used to distinguish these goods and services from non-certified goods and services and it helps to lay down standards that proprietors must adhere to.

Some famous Indian certification trademarks are WOOLMARK (that certifies that a product is made from 100% wool) and the ubiquitous ISI mark (that certifies the fact that products conform to standards laid by the Bureau of Indian Standards).

What is the Difference Between the Two?

Since both of these forms of certification indicates the quality of the goods and services involved, does that mean one is extraneous to the other? The answer is no, as both marks have different, specific functions.

Firstly it is observed that the Certification Trademarks are much broader in scope. WIPO defines a certification mark to include a region or location or origin, materials of construction, method or mode of manufacture or provision, quality assurance, the accuracy of the goods or services or any definable characteristic of the goods or services. It can also certify the manufacture or provision of services by members of a union or other organization to a certain standard.

Certification Trademarks can be applicable to both goods and services but GI tags include only goods within its scope. Neither does a GI tag certify the quality, standards of goods or the method of its production.

Second, a trademark is a symbol, name, or identity of a firm that is used to distinguish one entity’s goods or services from those of another. A certification Trademark generally serves to indicate the quality of the good or service. In contrast, a GI tag only denotes the origin of the good.

Third, Trademark is registered by a single proprietor or company. Indian law does not allow the proprietor of a certification trademark to use the mark in association with its own goods or services, but can only authorize others to use it. In contrast, GI grants protection collectively to the community or groups of producers of that region; and the registration is given to an association representative of that group.


Geographical Indicators (GI) and trademarks both indicate the identity of the goods. The only similar element between a GI and Certification Trademark is that they perform as a source indicator. However, the usage of it is very different from the usage of a GI for all the reasons mentioned above.

Author: Dipanwita Chakraborty, Legal Trainee at PA Legal.

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