News & Insights

Trademark lessons

Charlotte Burroughs, a solicitor in the Commercial and Technology team explains 2 IP lessons to be learnt from the Sussex Royals.

This guest article takes a look at the attempts by Harry and Meghan to market the Sussex Royal brand and the lessons that can be learnt from it for those looking to successfully protect their brand.

In January 2020, the Duke and Duchess announced their plans to step back as senior members of the Royal Family. It was correctly reported that some months previously the Duke and Duchess had filed to register the terms “Sussex Royal” and “Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex” as trademarks in the UK. This was, arguably, part of their brand strategy to sit alongside their popular Instagram account and website.

However, despite their stated intentions to spend a lot of their time in North America, they had not registered their mark in either of these territories. Since news of their intention to resign as members of the Royal Family broke, it was reported that an intellectual property lawyer had made an application for the “Sussex Royal” brand. Subsequently, a search report for “Sussex Royal” on the WIPO showed 9 applications pending in the name of someone other than the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s foundation, including five US applications and one for Canada.

Whilst speculative and non-genuine applications likely fail as it must be proved that the trademark will actually be used in the course of the applicant’s business, there is a lesson to be learnt here. Where you are looking to trademark your brand and you intend to use it imminently, you should ensure you register the relevant trademarks as soon as possible, particularly as applications can be lengthy, and to reduce the risk that someone else will register for the same or similar mark before you make your application.

Ultimately, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex confirmed in February 2020 they would not use the terms “Sussex Royal” or any other iteration of the word “Royal” in their branding in any territory. A further lesson can be learnt here which is to ensure you have the right to use the branding or wording you intend to use as part of your trademark and in your business and ensure that in doing so, you are not misleading in any way.

If you would like any further advice in relation to branding and registering trade marks in the UK, EU or further afield, please contact a member of the Commercial & Technology Team.