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Meghan Markle to boost the brand value of the British Monarchy?


Brand Finance released their annual report on the value of the British Monarchy on the 20 November. Less than a week later a new Royal Wedding was announced. Even though their estimate is a staggering £67.5 billion, we think this figure may be slightly conservative in light of all the attention the Royal Family, and its newest member, is about to receive.

The Monarchy’s tangible assets (the Crown Estate, the Crown Jewels, the Royal Collection and the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster) amount to a value of £25.5 billion. The majority of their value therefore is attributed to their intangible assets. It is estimated that the Royal Family boost the tourism revenue of the United Kingdom by £550 million. In 2016, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle attracted 2.6 million visitors between them. Members of the Royal Family also raise substantial sums through charitable patronage. In 2016 The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry raised £10.1 million in funds for military veterans, wildlife conservation and mental health.

At present, 800 companies hold a Royal Warrant, a mark of recognition that has been issued for centuries to tradespeople who serve the Royal Family. It is estimated that these marks account for a total of £193 million of added value to these brands. A greater effect, however, is had by unofficial endorsements. Known as the ‘Kate effect’, designers of pieces worn by the Duchess of Cambridge receive huge spikes in sales when she is photographed wearing them. This effect is not limited to the Duchess, her sister Pippa and even her 2 year old daughter Charlotte have the same influence. GH Hurt and Sons reported 100,000 hits on their website the day a photograph was published of Princess Charlotte wrapped in one of their shawls. This effect is also not limited to the actual items and brands chosen by Royalty. When the Duchess of Cambridge was photographed in a beige Burberry coat, ASDA reported a 300% sales boost of a coat that was a similar design in the same colour.

The New West End Company have forecasted that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding day alone will generate £100 million in extra spending in bars, hotels, restaurants, and shops around London and on commemorative memorabilia. The Government is keen to boost this figure and often extends trading hours on days of national importance, such as England matches in the World Cup and the last Royal Wedding in 2011. London hotels are expecting a stampede of bookings once the date and location are announced. The Royal Collection Trust, a charitable organisation which has been hand-making gilded fine bone china souvenirs to commemorate Royal events for the last 250 years, has no doubt begun designs for the new Royal Wedding collection.

According to the Centre for Retail Research, £222 million was spent on memorabilia in the run up to the wedding of William and Kate in 2011. The Royal Collection Trust released its collection 4 months before the wedding, yet mere hours after the announcement of Harry and Meghan’s engagement unofficial souvenirs began appearing online. You can commemorate their engagement with the purchase of mugs, shirts, tea-towels, key rings, badges and even car window stickers all featuring the happy couple. Many are of the pair photoshopped together, to avoid infringing the copyright of the official engagement photos.

In these official engagement photos, taken before the couple’s first television interview together, Meghan wore a white coat over a green dress. The coat, by Canadian brand LINE, sold out that day; and the dress, by Italian brand Parosh, sold out within an hour. It is clear that there is a burgeoning ‘Meghan effect’ on our hands, and brands are picking up on this. Parosh is to reissue their sold-out green dress next week, only it will now be named ‘the Meghan’.

Royals have been known to register their IP. There are a few Royal titles on the trade mark register, all for charitable foundations, for example The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. It seems that other people have tried to register Royal titles as their own marks, with mixed results. The Duke of Cambridge is a popular choice, having successfully been registered for the import of fortified wines, yet blocked from achieving registration for a type of cheese.

It appears that similar attention is now being paid to Meghan’s name. On the 27 November, the day that Clarence House announced the engagement, an application was made for the mark MEGHAN to cover clothing, footwear, bags and perfume.

So it would seem that many opportunities will arise for people to take advantage the commercial hysteria that surrounds the upcoming Royal Wedding, both through unofficial merchandise and by riding the coat-tails of Royal IP. eBay already lists an abundance of unofficial merchandise, and among the mugs and t-shirts the domain names HARRYANDMEGHAN.COM and HARRYANDMEGHAN.CO.UK are going for £25,000 each.

It will be interesting to see what the custodians of the Royal Family’s IP do to protect their rights. When Prince William’s engagement was announced in November 2010 several applications were made to register PRINCESS CATHERINE, all of which were refused.

This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.

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