Prince Harry and Meghan were actively preparing to quit the Royal Family months ago by filing trade mark applications to commercially protect their brand.
The shock announcement that the Sussex’s are leaving the Royal Family to focus on a new role and become financially independent, has astonished global media, but the signs were there in the middle of last year.
Harry and Meghan filed trade mark applications in the UK in June last year to legally protect the Sussex Royal brand on more than 100 items, from teaching materials and emotional support groups to clothing and even newspapers.
The couple obviously filed the trade mark applications in anticipation of leaving the Royal Family.
This could be because they may lose their titles as part of leaving the Royal Family. So this is a defensive move to allow them to continue using the titles or a name that alludes to the titles.
Media last year speculated Meghan may try to turn the Sussex Royal brand into a global empire as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stamped their name on a wide list of good and services.
The latest announcement will focus more attention on the trade mark move.
Their Royal Titles are gifted by the Queen – will they lose their Royal Titles when they step back from Royal duties.
Legally there also must be an intention to use the trade mark on the goods/services of the application at the time of the application. Unless it is a defensive mark (which requires a prior registration). When the trade mark move was publicised in December there was a lot of uncertainty over why they were doing it.
But now it’s become very clear. This was a strategic move and it happened in the middle of last year so it’s not some decision the pair made during their Christmas holidays.
The royals submitted trademark applications for “Sussex Royal” and “Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex” on dozens of products including T-shirts, social services and even newspapers. They were in the name of Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, a company that the royal couple established on their own.
They have thought this through as the list is very comprehensive with clothing; footwear; headgear; t-shirts; coats; jackets; anoraks; trousers; sweaters; jerseys; dresses; pyjamas; suits; sweat shirts; hooded tops; caps; hats; bandanas; headbands; socks; scarves and neckwear; gloves and sportswear. This is not some spur of the moment move.
I believe that the couple has also been very clever and deliberate in the way that they have approached the registration.
“Sussex Royal” is not an official royal title or term, so there will not likely be any question of ownership of the trade mark. The trade mark application for “Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex” is more dubious, given the direct reference to the royal titles.
However I think the Royal couple are well aware of the potential issues and are simply gaining legitimate rights to continue using “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex” in the event that they lose the royal title.
But does the Sussex trade mark apply in Australia? They could file an application in Australia deriving priority (off the back of – so to speak) the UK application within the 6 month deadline to do so and keep the same date from the UK application.
But given the UK trade mark application was filed on 21 June last year and published in December, there’s now a question mark over whether the deadline for Australia has passed.
If they don’t file here then someone else could apply in Australia – whether it is valid or not (due to ownership issues) will be another issue.