The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) is pleased to report that a favorable settlement has been reached in AMT v. AAMA, a lawsuit filed in federal district court in October 2006. The settlement terminates both the lawsuit and petition filed by American Medical Technologists (AMT) to cancel AAMA’s Certified Medical Assistant® certification mark.

Pursuant to the settlement, AAMA retains its certification mark registration on the Principal Register of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Furthermore, AAMA and current Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs) retain the exclusive right to use the phrase Certified Medical Assistant® to indicate that medical assisting services will be performed by a person whose services are competent in the medical assistant field, such individuals having graduated from a medical assisting program accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), and having passed the AAMA CMA Certification Examination given by the AAMA Certifying Board.

While the specific terms of the settlement agreement are confidential, following the settlement, AMT and its Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certificants may use the phrase “certified medical assistant” in small letters and only in the primary, descriptive sense to describe the credentialing services offered by AMT’s Registered Medical Assistant program, or to describe individuals who have been awarded the RMA certification. AMT and its RMA certificants may not use the words or phrase in a source-indicating manner (i.e., in a manner that implies affiliation with, or certification or endorsement by, the American Association of Medical Assistants). They also may not use the abbreviations “CMA” or “C.M.A.” While AMT’s RMA certificants may respond to “certified medical assistant” advertisements or job postings, in doing so they must make clear to the prospective employer that they are certified by AMT as a Registered Medical Assistant. AMT and its RMA certificants may use the capitalized term “Certified Medical Assistant” or “CMA” only for purposes of describing AAMA’s certification or comparing AMT’s and AAMA’s certification programs.

The following before-and-after chart may be helpful in understanding the very limited nature of what AAMA has given up by this settlement:

Before the settlement

AAMA

AAMA and its CMA certificants had the exclusive right to use Certified Medical Assistant® and CMA to indicate that medical assisting services will be performed by a person whose services are competent in the medical assistant field, such individual having met certain educational standards and having passed an examination administered by the AAMA Certifying Board.

AMT

AAMA consistently took the position that AMT could only use “certified medical assistant” to refer to individuals who had been certified by the AAMA. AMT took the position that AMT and its RMA certificants could use the term “certified medical assistant” in a descriptive sense to describe the credentialing services offered by AMT’s Registered Medical Assistant program, or to describe individuals who had been awarded the RMA certification.

After the settlement

AAMA

AAMA and its CMA certificants have the exclusive right to use Certified Medical Assistant® and CMA to indicate that medical assisting services will be performed by a person whose services are competent in the medical assisting field, such individual having met certain educational standards and having passed an examination administered by the AAMA Certifying Board.

AMT

AMT and its RMA certificants can use the term “certified medical assistant” in a descriptive sense to describe the credentialing services offered by AMT’s Registered Medical Assistant program, or to describe individuals who have been awarded the RMA certification. They can use the capitalized term “Certified Medical Assistant” or “CMA” only for purposes of describing AAMA’s certification or comparing AMT’s and AAMA’s certification programs. When responding to advertisements or job postings for “certified medical assistants,” AMT certificants are to make clear to the prospective employer that they are certified by AMT as a Registered Medical Assistant.

It is the opinion of AAMA Executive Director and Legal Counsel Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA, that this settlement is, in no way, a defeat for the American Association of Medical Assistants. To the contrary, it solidifies and clarifies the AAMA’s legal rights to the Certified Medical Assistant® phrase and (within the medical assisting profession) the initialism CMA. This is also the opinion of AAMA General Counsel John M. Peterson, Esquire, of Howe and Hutton, Ltd., one of the leading association law firms in the United States. The AAMA has been a client of Howe and Hutton, Ltd., for more than 20 years, and General Counsel Peterson and his colleagues have assisted the AAMA with trademark registration matters and attempted encroachments of AAMA’s legal rights to “CMA” and “Certified Medical Assistant®” for more than 15 years.

 

Any questions about this settlement may be directed to Donald A. Balasa at dbalasa@aama-ntl.org