The Royal Wedding and Intellectual Property Rights... Relax!

Can Kats come to the wedding?
Photo: Steve Jurvetson
This coming Saturday - 19th May - the wedding of Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle takes place at St George's Chapel, in Windsor. In the run up to the royal wedding, there's really only one question on all our minds of course, what about the Royal IP?! After the Lord Chamberlain’s Office announced that the rules of use have been "temporarily relaxed", Dr Janice Denoncourt (Senior Lecturer, Nottingham Law School) kindly provides us with the full details:

Global super brand Queen Elizabeth II and members of her family are the subject of worldwide fascination.  The forthcoming marriage of Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle to be celebrated on 19 May puts intellectual property (IP), branding and image rights in the spotlight.  Love them or loathe them, the British Royal Family is a unique selling point of the UK.  Business analysts predict a worldwide TV audience of 1 billion, while royalty devotees will inject millions of pounds into the U.K.’s economy. The wedding of Prince Harry, the fifth in line to the throne, presents an array of commercial opportunities in terms of souvenirs, memorabilia, marketing and advertising.  It’s not surprising that many businesses and organisations will want to associate their goods and services with the happy historic event for commercial purposes in the UK and beyond. 

However, like other significant events such as the Invictus Games, Royal Ascot and Wimbledon, special legal rules regarding the use of IP and image rights apply. In other words, super brand management is on the agenda. The Lord Chamberlain, the Earl Peel, is the most senior officer of the Royal Household.  His office produces definitive guidelines on the use of the Royal Arms, Names, Images, Royal Devices, Emblems and Titles and of photographs, portraits, engravings, effigies and busts of The Queen and Members of the Royal Family. Normally, using Royal names or Royal residences on products is unlawful if the use of the name suggests the goods have some connection with or are supplied to a Member of the Royal Family. These rules are only relaxed on occasional events of national importance. Although established souvenir firms will have ‘Operation Royal Wedding 2018’ underway, smaller, less IP-aware businesses will be relieved to learn that the Royal Wedding is indeed nationally important. They can relax, but must remain on ‘best commercial behaviour’ so to speak. 

The Lord Chamberlain’s Office, announced that: 

“In line with previous practice for Royal weddings, Prince Harry has been pleased to approve that the rules governing the commercial use of Royal Photographs and Insignia may be temporarily relaxed to allow their use on souvenirs commemorating the Engagement and Marriage of HRH Prince Henry of Wales and Ms Meghan Markle.”

This means that approved photographs of Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle and the full Coat of Arms of HRH Prince Henry of Wales (known as ‘devices’) are allowed on Royal Wedding souvenirs.  In other words, such use will not infringe. Souvenirs specifically designed to commemorate the Marriage can use phrases such as: “To Commemorate the Engagement of HRH Prince Henry of Wales and Ms Meghan Markle, 27th November 2017” or “To Commemorate the Marriage of  HRH Prince Henry of Wales and Miss Meghan Markle, 19th May 2018”. 

Beware Royal IP Etiquette!
It is not quite a free for all. To qualify, souvenirs must be in ‘good taste’; free from any form of advertisement; and carry no implication of Royal custom or approval – otherwise such use might infringe Prince Harry and Ms Markle’s IP and image rights. There are specific restrictions on certain types of souvenir.

Promise not to get any fur on the dress
Photo: Marcos de Madariaga
Royal Insignia MAY NOT be used on textiles (e.g. clothing, T-shirts, tea towels and aprons) but are permitted on tasteful carpets, cushions, wall hangings and head scarves.

Containers and Packaging
As a special exception, containers or receptacles of merchandise will, on this occasion, qualify as souvenirs provided that they are metalware, ceramic or other semi- indestructible material as long as they are specially made for the Royal Wedding. The Royal symbols used on containers or packaging are limited to approved photographs of Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle and the use of Prince Harry’s Coat of Arms is specifically forbidden on containers and packaging.

Commemorative Coins
As a special exception for the Royal Wedding, commemorative coins (i.e. coins which are not currency) and medallions will qualify as souvenirs.

The Royal devices may be used in decorations celebrating the Royal Wedding, although not in any way that might imply Royal Patronage or approval of any firm or its products.

Prince Harry’s Arms may not be flown as flags.

Use of approved photos and images
Approved photographs can be obtained from most photographic agencies (e.g. Getty Images, a digital media platform for photography and editorial images, Shutterstock).

However, Kensington Palace owns the copyright in the official engagement photographs. Alexi Lubomirski, the same man who shot their engagement, has been appointed the official Royal Wedding photographer. Permission to use Engagement and Royal Wedding images must be cleared by the Royal Household before use and will be authorised only for news editorial purposes and NOT for use on souvenirs, or memorabilia and the like. If in doubt, further IP and image rights guidance can obtained by writing directly to The Lord Chamberlain’s Office Buckingham Palace, London, SW1A 1AA or by email: No doubt, good IP etiquette will be appreciated, while bad IP manners will be abhorred.

With so much criticism of powerful IP owners in the public domain, it is heartening to see Prince Harry and his American bride-to-be continuing the royal tradition of sharing their valuable IP and image rights with the public for this special occasion. This approach is an example of a balanced modern global superbrand management.

Beyond the United Kingdom
With an American bride-to-be, and the blissful couple having holidayed in Botswana at the start of their relationship, the “reMarkable” Royal Wedding effect will no doubt extend to America, Africa and the Commonwealth countries. However, IP rules above are territorial and will apply only in the UK unless the Royal Family has made formal arrangements in those jurisdictions. 

See the full 2018 guidelines here.

The Royal Wedding and Intellectual Property Rights... Relax! The Royal Wedding and Intellectual Property Rights... Relax! Reviewed by Hayleigh Bosher on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 Rating: 5

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