The State of Kansas is updating the stamp of approval it gives to local growers.  Now, products that have at least 75% of their ingredients from, or processing in, Kansas can apply to display the certification mark
Simply Kansas.

For the past 30 years, a similar certification mark had been available: From the Land of Kansas.  In addition to the name and logo changes, the revamping includes an update to the services included in the program.

Governor Kathleen Sebelius voiced her approval of the change, announced on Monday by the Kansas Department of Commerce, saying that it would help smaller growers compete with their larger competitors.  Said Sebelius, “many…entrepreneurs don’t have the resources to promote their products on a large scale.  That’s where Simply Kansas can help, and that’s why we’re so excited about the program.”

Local news reports say that, in addition to the privilege of displaying the Simply Kansas logo, producers who qualify for the program will have access to marketing assistance and educational opportunities to help level the playing field for all Kansas growers.

Certification marks are often confused with traditional trademarks, but the two forms of identification in fact carry very different meanings.  Trademarks are, in short, source identifiers.  They serve to inform consumers of who produced or manufactured a given product.  Certification marks don’t serve to identify the source of the product, but rather identify the product as possessing certain characteristics which a third party (owner of the certification mark) has decided are noteworthy.  These characteristics are often quality standards, but can also relate to area of geographic origin, mode of manufacture, or even the manufacturers themselves (that they all belong to a certain union, for instance).

Imagine a Eureka vacuum cleaner which has been given the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.  “Eureka” (as well as any accompanying logos) is a trademark, indicating that this particular vacuum cleaner was manufactured by The Eureka Company.

The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval is a certification mark; the vacuum cleaner was not produced by GH, but it fulfills certain standards set by GH, and so GH has given it an official “thumbs-up” of sorts.  Of course, the owner of the product (Eureka) needs to give permission for the certification mark to be displayed with the product, but in most cases a certification mark indicates positive qualities of the product, and so an owner would be happy to show that its product had surpassed certain standards.

To register a certification mark, an organization must provide the USPTO with, among other things, a copy of the guidelines by which it will decide which products or services are deserving of the mark.