When the successor company to the Elvis estate failed to register Elvis Presley brands it was no flash in the pan, as the result of recent attempts by the Princess Diana Estate to register the DIANA name shows.
Who: The Estate of Diana, Princess of Wales
Where: UK Trade Marks Registry
When: Early 2001
The Estate of Diana, Princess of Wales applied to register the mark "Diana Princess of Wales" for goods and services in no less than 19 of the 42 classes of products for which registrations are possible. The Trade Marks Registry Hearing Officer gave the applications short shrift, rejecting the Estate’s survey evidence that after the Princess’s death the average consumer would expect products bearing the Princess’s name to have been authorised by the Estate. In the UK, the Hearing Officer commented, a personality had no automatic right to exclusive use of their name as a trade mark. As with all other trade mark registration applications, the brand in question had to be distinctive as an indication that products carrying it came from a single source. The Estate therefore had to prove that the mark in question, at the time they applied to register it, was distinctive of products made or approved by the Estate. This they were unable to do and the applications therefore failed.
Why this matters:
The Princess of Wales’ estate has suffered the same fate as the estate of Elvis Presley in the recent "Elvisly Yours" case. Famous name owners in the UK continue to face a seemingly impossible challenge: apply to register too early and the name will not be regarded as distinctive enough to qualify for registration; apply too late and widespread use by others will have robbed the brand of its character as an "exclusive badge of origin."