In early 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their intention to ‘step back’ as senior members of the British Royal Family. Simultaneously with this jaw-dropping announcement came the release of a new website (sussexroyal.com), wherein Harry and Meghan explained their decision and provided information about what they hoped to achieve.
Interestingly, in the months preceding their bombshell announcement, Harry and Meghan trademarked the name “Sussex Royal” and copyrighted various items and services using that moniker (including clothing and stationary). According to various news outlets, Harry and Meghan’s plan was to launch a not-for-profit organization under the same brand name: Sussex Royal, the Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Harry and Meghan also have an Instagram account (with a follower count of over 11 million – rivaling Prince William and Kate Middleton’s) which uses @SussexRoyal as the handle. Needless to say: Harry and Meghan have invested much time and money into building their ‘brand’ as Sussex Royals.
However, news recently broke that, by order of Queen Elizabeth II (Harry’s grandmother), Harry and Meghan will apparently no longer be permitted to use the name “Sussex Royal.” According to a number of various news outlets, the Queen and other senior officials have allegedly agreed that it is no longer ‘tenable’ for Harry and Meghan to continue to allude to their ‘royalty’ in their branding.
Family politics aside – if the news is true, what was the Queen’s legal authority to make this call?
Legally speaking, and according to royal biographer Robert Hardman, the Queen is governed by several pieces of trade mark legislation, which were enacted in an attempt to prevent individuals from trading or advertising based on alleged royal connections.
There is a long history of legal disputes over improper allusions to ‘royalty’ by markedly ‘unroyal’ individuals and corporations, from the use of royal coats of arms to the use of royal insignia on food or alcoholic beverages. There are specific rules and laws with respect to how businesses or individuals can properly use any sort of ‘royal’ status without breaching trademark laws.
In any event: it appears that Harry and Meghan may no longer be able to refer to themselves as “Sussex Royals” and will have to think of a new identity for themselves. The writers suggestion: CometoCanada&HaveNunavut.