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A Primer on the Use of BCG Trademarks


From OnBoard - Newsletter of the BCG
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Michael S. Ramage, JD, CG, “A Primer on the Use of BCG Trademarks,” OnBoard 17 (May 2011): 9–10.

Proper use of our trademarks and service marks is a matter of critical importance for all BCG associates. Correct use of our credentials protects them legally. At the same time, vigilance against unauthorized use of our marks helps protect us. The assistance of all associates in these matters is essential. Editorial misuse of our marks by a few affects everyone, just as substandard work produced by a non-associate using one of our marks can undermine our collective and individual reputations.

BCG currently uses several marks. Our name—Board for Certification of Genealogists—is a registered trademark. Our credentials—CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer—are service marks.

The term “trademark” is often used to refer to both trademarks and service marks. However, a service mark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of services rather than goods. Use of the designations SM (service mark) or the ® (Registration) symbol is not legally required, but the proper use of these designations is strongly encouraged as a means of notifying the public of our intellectual property rights in our marks. If a mark is not registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the trademark owner may not legally use the ® symbol in connection with the mark.

Distinguishing our marks from generic or descriptive terms will help protect their status. Therefore, associates are requested to observe the following rules when using them:

  • BCG service marks should not be used in the plural.
  • The initial letters of our service marks should be capitalized.
  • The first use of the mark (in a letter, website, report, etc.) should be followed by the superscript SM or SM in parentheses. If several such references appear in a longer work, the following statement in the front matter or publication data may be used instead: “Certified Genealogist and CG are proprietary service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, whose name is a registered trademark.”
  •  The service marks should not be used as freestanding nouns. Preceding a mark with the article “a” or “the” would be an inappropriate descriptive or generic use.

As BCG General Counsel Donn Devine, CG, CGL, has aptly put it, “When a generic, descriptive, or plural reference is intended, consider terms like board-certified genealogist(s), BCG-certified associate, or board certificant(s), rather than one of the distinctive marks.”

Except as noted above, there is no precisely prescribed wording to describe BCG’s marks in a signature block, reference note, or otherwise. Nevertheless, the following discussion provides guidance about acceptable practices and uses.

Use in Text or Speech

It is not proper usage to state, “I am a [BCG service mark],” as that is a generic usage. On the other hand, it is proper usage to state, “I am Certified Genealogist John Doe,” “I am Jane Doe, Certified Genealogist,” or “I hold a Certified Genealogist credential.”

Use in Stationery

Examples of proper listing of credentials in letterhead:
John Doe
Certified GenealogistSM

Jane Doe, CGSM, CGLSM

When we use the superscript SM, it is not necessary to provide any further notice of who owns the marks. If an associate prefers to not use the superscript abbreviations, they may be omitted as long as an appropriate notice is placed in a footer on the page when the postnominal first appears. The following notices are examples of acceptable usage:

“Certified Genealogist” is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by authorized associates following peer-reviewed competency evaluations. Certificate No. XX, renewed, expires 1 May 2014.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation, and the board name is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Note that when the ® symbol is used, the phrase “and the board name is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office” is not required as this would be redundant.

Use in E-Mail and Websites

When your e-mail program and website support superscript and symbols, the same rules apply as with stationery. However, when your e-mail program and website do not support superscript and symbols, the following practices are acceptable:

  1. Instead of superscripting the SM, place it in parentheses, as in (SM).
  2. Instead of placing the symbol ® after BCG’s name, substitute (R) or the phrase “and the board name is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.”

Use by Editors

Where a single publication may contain references to credentials conferred by several organizations, BCG suggests a notice like the following be included in the front matter, acknowledging intellectual property rights in credential designations of each body:

Genealogical Credentials: CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®. Accredited Genealogist and AG are certification marks of the International Commission for Accreditation of Professional Genealogists. Individuals are licensed to use the credential designations after meeting the competency standards of those organizations. FASG identifies fellows of the American Society of Genealogists, an honorary society limited to fifty living members chosen for the quality of their published genealogical scholarship. Fellowship in other societies awarded on the basis of scholarship, rather than service or support to the society, may also be recognized by a postnominal designation incorporating the society’s initials.

In cases where only BCG-credentialed individuals are cited, the notice may be shortened as follows:

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.
The proper use of our credentials by board certificants will strengthen our marks and reduce the workload of our team that polices the proper use by our certificants and third parties.

Michael S. Ramage, JD, CG

This article was originally published in OnBoard, BCG’s educational newsletter and is protected by copyright. Individuals may download and print copies for their personal study. Educators are granted permission to provide copies to their students as long as BCG, OnBoard, and the appropriate author are credited as the source of the material. Republication elsewhere is not permitted.



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