On January 8, 2020, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, announced on Instagram their decision to “step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family“, and to become financially independent.
After high level talks among the Royal Family, including the Queen, it was announced that the couple would “no longer be working members of Britain’s royal family“, would not use their “royal highness” titles, would no longer receive taxpayer funds, and would spend most of their time in North America.
- The couple will no longer represent the Queen in any capacity.
- They will retain their HRH (His and Her Royal Highness) titles, but will not use them, and will instead be called Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
- They will be financially independent of the British taxpayer/exchequer (and will even repay the £2+ million they spent renovating Frogmore Cottage);
- Prince Harry would resign all British military appointments, and would no longer officially represent the Royal Family at military ceremonies.
- The couple would retain their private patronages and associations (e.g. Prince Harry’s Invictus Games), but not royal ones.
- Prince Charles, Harry’s father, would continue to provide financial support for at least a year.
In their January 8 Instagram post, the couple also posted a link to a new website, sussexroyal.com. Newspapers reported that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex filed a UK trademark application for SUSSEX ROYAL in June 2019, covering six classes and more than 100 goods and services.
However, the word “Royal” and images of royal crowns have special protection under UK intellectual property law. There are provisions in the UK Trademarks Act 1994 – and implemented at the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) – which prevents the registration of trademarks incorporating the word “ROYAL” in some circumstances.
Yet, the UKIPO trademark examination manual does not actually rule out use of the word “royal” in all circumstances. The manual states, “The word ‘royal’ is unlikely to indicate Royal patronage or authorisation for everyday items [eg, insurance or financial services, double glazing services, provision of electricity] or for goods which are far enough removed from any association with the Royal family [eg, skateboards, computers, computer games or T-shirts].” However, “some potentially problematic goods and services that could indicate a royal link include high quality porcelain and glassware, luxury foods, exhibitions, tourism, and charitable services.”
On 21 February 2020, it was confirmed that the “Sussex Royal” would not be used as a brand name for the couple. However, the reason is unclear. Prince Harry and his wife may simply have felt daunted by the many other competing trademark applications that had been filed around the world to cash in on their “Sussex Royal” brand.
For example, last April someone in Malta tried to trademark hundreds of items from adhesive bras to energy drinks in the name of “Sussex Royal”. Someone else in Europe attempted to trademark “Sussex Royal” with respect to toiletries, sporting goods, toys and alcoholic beverages.
What do you think? Should the Duke and Duchess of Sussex be able to use the “Sussex Royal” brand even if they are no longer working members of the Royal Family?