Adam Turley, Intellectual Property specialist, Baines Wilson
In light of Harry and Meghan’s applications to trademark their Sussex Royal brand, of which the trademark registration is reported as being ‘blocked’, the general public is becoming au fait with the world of intellectual property (IP) and the pitfalls that can plague those wanting to protect their IP.
With some suggesting the Sussex Royal brand could become worth billions (arguably a little over optimistic), the potential value of protecting your IP has taken centre stage too.
The widespread coverage has undoubtedly shed a light on the importance of protecting your IP. However, it has also highlighted how little most people understand about IP as a whole.
This is unfortunate, as a lack of understanding to often leads to businesses not properly protecting their IP, potentially causing them to lose out on significant sums.
So, what can the Sussex Royal story teach us about the world of IP?
Firstly, there have been widespread reports of Harry and Meghan’s trademark application being ‘blocked’ – a description that is wide of the mark. At present, Harry and Meghan’s application is not blocked but is potentially going to be opposed by other parties. Whilst this has the potential to be a major block in the road for the Sussexes, it is not particularly common for the average trademark applicant. The Sussex mark is likely being opposed to a large extent due to the media attention it has received rather than the genuine competing interests of any other party, and this is a shame as, for the wider public, this gives the impression that IP protection is more perilous than it actually is.
What the mainstream press have realised, however, is how important trademarking and protecting the Sussex Royal brand is for Harry and Meghan if they are to realise its full value. The value of that brand is evidenced by the fact they have over 11 million followers on their @sussexroyal Instagram account. If they are to achieve financial independence, maximising the value of their brand by putting adequate protections in place will be crucial.
Of course, IP protection doesn’t just refer to brands. IP protection could refer to product designs, individual machine parts, products, inventions or an array of valuable resources – all of which can make up an essential part of your business. Not adequately protecting your IP through the registration of trademarks, designs or patents can render the benefits of originality virtually invisible. It’s no surprise that protecting and maximising IP can be fundamental to any businesses’ success.
Registered IP protection gives you a solid legal grounding should someone try to steal or copy what you do. Without these protections, you would have to rely on unregistered rights which aren’t nearly as strong as rights that have been registered. It’s also normally significantly cheaper to resolve IP disputes if registered protection is already in place. And with the cost of registering rights comparatively low, protecting your assets at the outset is the eminently sensible thing to do.
Harry and Meghan may have come in for a lot of criticism in the British press. However, in terms of trademarking and attempting to protect their Sussex Royal brand they have acted wisely. There may be blips along the way, but the Sussexes should reap the rewards in the end. Let’s hope businesses take note and obtain relevant registrations so that many more unique brands, creations or products are adequately protected from the outset.