The royal wedding of HRH Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton on Friday 29 April 2011 is expected to generate somewhere in the region of £620 million of revenue for the UK economy. Unlike other high profile events (for instance the Olympics 2012), there has been no specific legislation passed to protect the 'royal rights' thus brand owners and retailers have and will be seeking to share in the royal couple's happy day by gaining some of the potential profits to be generated from it. In light of this, Prince William authorised the Lord Chamberlain's Office (LCO) to allow for the temporary relaxation of a number of restrictions on the use of souvenirs to commemorate his marriage. However, these guidelines are not legally enforceable and companies will still need to consider the intellectual property related legal issues that may arise before using the royal wedding in any advertising or branding.
Essentially the guidelines provide that souvenirs may bear approved photographs of the happy couple as well as Prince William's full coat of arms but only if the souvenirs:
- are of a permanent kind;
- incorporate explicit wording to identify their commemorative purpose;
- are in good taste;
- are free from any form of advertisement; and
- carry no implication of royal custom or approval.
The relaxations are subject to a number of limitations and exclusions, the most important of which is the fact that the relaxations will apply only until October 1 2011.
Even though the LCO guidance allows the use of approved photographs for souvenirs, the use of other images of the royal couple may be restricted if the copyright of the particular image is owned by a third party. Thus licences and consents are needed for the use of any photographs of the couple except the approved photographs in line with the LCO guidance.
In relation to advertising, the UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP code) provides that advertisers must not falsely claim or imply that particular goods or services are endorsed by the royal family or affiliated with royal events. The code provides that members of the royal family and the royal arms or emblems should not be shown or mentioned in marketing communications without the Palace's prior permission. The only significant exception to the general rule about not using royalty in advertising is if there is a truly incidental reference that is not connected to the advertised product or services or the use is with reference to publications featuring the royal family such as a book, film or programme.
CAP have suggested that advertising formulations such as 'Invite everyone round to watch the wedding and enjoy X' will be allowed providing they do not feature Prince William or Miss Middleton. If advertising is found to breach the CAP code, the Advertising Standards Authority may direct that the advertising is to cease.
Whilst members of the royal family can use passing off to prevent false representations that they have endorsed goods or services, it is also a criminal offence to give, in the course of any business, and by whatever means, any false indication that goods or services are a kind supplied to or approved by any members of the royal family. The penalty for such a misrepresentation is up to two years imprisonment. Hence, even where it is purported that a person has a royal warrant to use the Crown in the course of business, care must be taken. It should also be noted that royal warrants are only granted to named individuals within a warranted business and thus a warrant cannot be assigned or transferred.
Finally, whilst there have been a number of bizarre souvenirs produced to commemorate the royal wedding, not least a commemorative royal wedding sick bag, the fact that Prince William has relaxed the rules on souvenirs and the Palace's action (or lack of), even against a company which produced a bone-china commemorative cup which mistakenly featured Prince Harry with Kate Middleton instead of Prince William, would suggest that the Palace is unlikely to be overly aggressive in intervening in respect of unapproved souvenirs or advertising. Nevertheless, the guidance surrounding the use of advertising and branding involving the royal wedding is complex and the possible implications wide so if you are planning on taking advantage of the opportunity to share in the royal wedding contact us for further advice.