Exploring the possibilities for an European Makers Quality Label

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DDMP aims at promoting and improving the connection of makers and designers with the market (Maker to Market) through the development and recognition of an emerging European Maker and Design culture. This is done by supporting makers, their mobility and circulation of their work, providing them with international opportunities and highlighting the most outstanding talent. And a way for highlighting creative talent is also with a quality label: a visual recognition that both certifies and promotes projects and their authors.

Within DDMP, the goal of the European Makers Quality Label is to become a Europe-wide quality label that certifies and promote the work of talented makers and designers in the Distributed Design movement. In order to reach this goal, the DDMP project is working on designing the label, on formulating its criteria for selection, application and awarding and on setting up its management.

Brands have always been important for open source projects, and there have been even two projects of quality labels. The Open Hardware and Design Alliance (OHANDA) was a project that aimed at encouraging the sharing of open hardware and designs with a free online service where creators of Open Hardware and Open Design projects could register their products and obtain a common label, similar to a non-registered trademark and based on the four freedoms of Free Software. A similar but more structured and still active initiative was established later by the Open Source Hardware Association, the Open Source Hardware Association Certification, a self-certification process that gives authors the right to use the Open Source Hardware Certification logo on any open source hardware product.

What could the European Makers Quality Label be? As a starting point, a label can certify, protect and promote a product or a service. So it could be applied to:

  1. an Emerging Creative Talent through one of her projects;
  2. a space or service of/for an Emerging Creative Talent (a Fab Lab, a makerspace, but even a design consultancy).

Then, we should discuss how it is awarded:

  • the label is certified or licensed by an organisation;
  • It is self-certified by an Emerging Creative Talent that applies the label autonomously.

Trademarks, can also be:

  1. registered;
  2. unregistered.

Then, in legal terms, for a quality label like this, we have three main options for the European Makers Quality Label:

  1. EU trademark. These marks allow the owner to discretionally license it to third parties with specific agreements with each third party. This is the most traditional approach, it is simpler but requires a specific agreement with each third party (which can thus customised, but it requires more work). Such agreement could be made transparent and shared with all the third parties, acting thus as a document governing the rule of use.
  2. EU collective mark. This kind of mark can be used only by the members of an association which is the proprietor of the mark, and that can apply it to their goods and services. Only authorised members can use it, and it is based on:
    1. a formal organisation,
    2. a common agreement that details how to use the brand,
    3. a common agreement that describes the governing rules for the use of the brand and its governance; this must be provided at the registration of the label, and any changes must be reported.
  3. EU certification mark. This kind of mark distinguishes goods or services which are certified by the proprietor of the mark in respect of material, mode of manufacture of goods or performance of services, quality, accuracy or other characteristics. The proprietor of the mark cannot carry on a business involving the supply of goods or services of the kind certified in order to avoid any conflict of interest. Only certified third parties can use it following specific governing rules.

What will be the European Makers Quality Label then? During the first year of DDMP we explored the legal and governance aspects of such labels, and we are now working on:

  1. defining the best direction, in terms of simplicity and transparency;
  2. defining the regulations governing its use;
  3. designing the brand;
  4. Establishing its documentation and registration.