Skip to main content

In this file photo, Britain's Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, holding their son, Archie, appear at the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa, Sept. 25, 2019.Toby Melville/Reuters

Prince Harry and Meghan’s bid to trademark “Sussex Royal” has taken a bizarre twist with allegations that an imposter tried to derail their application.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex applied for the trademark last June and planned to use it for more than 100 products and services, according to documents filed with Britain’s Intellectual Property Office. The IPO’s review of the application was supposed to end on Feb. 20, but the process was thrown off track after a “notice of threatened opposition” was submitted last Tuesday. It automatically halted the process for at least a month and could have thwarted the application altogether.

The notice had been filed by Benjamin Worcester, a doctor who lives in Melbourne, Australia, but worked and studied in London. Dr. Worcester confirmed to several media outlets that he submitted the objection but he refused to offer an explanation. “My reasoning is personal and not for public consumption,” he told The Sun newspaper Friday.

Hours later, though, Dr. Worcester did an about-face. He contacted the IPO to say he hadn’t filed the notice after all and that it must have been done by an imposter. “He advised us that it wasn’t him that applied and could it be removed,” an IPO spokeswoman told The Globe and Mail.

The office later issued a statement: “The IPO has been advised by an individual that their personal details have been used without their permission to submit a ‘Notice of threatened opposition’ to the Sussex Royal trade mark. While we are unable to discuss the specifics of trade mark applications, we are able to advise that we are in the process of rescinding this notice.”

But by late Friday four more notices had been filed against the application. It’s not clear who filed them or if they will go forward with a formal objection, which could delay the approval process or lead to a rejection of the application.

While these notices are not uncommon and often go nowhere, Friday’s strange turn of events could be a blow to the Duke and Duchess, who have big plans for the trademark. Filings with the IPO show they have applied to use it on clothing, magazines, newspapers, postcards and calendars, as well as for the “marketing and promotion of charitable campaigns,” “cultural activities,” “personal development training” and "arranging and conducting of conferences.” They’ve also registered “Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex” which is expected to be their main charitable vehicle.

The couple plan to take the brand global and have applied for a similar trademark with the World Intellectual Property Organization. If successful, the trademark would cover Canada, Australia, the United States and the European Union. But they could face problems with that application. A rival bid for the same trademark was made this month at the European Union Intellectual Property Office. It’s not clear from the preliminary filing who made the application, but they appear to be German. Filings show they want to use the Sussex Royal brand for toiletries, jewellery, luggage, toys, games and beer.

The Royal Family is also believed to be uncomfortable with the couple using “Royal” in their trademark, given their new roles. Harry and Meghan have agreed to step back from all royal duties this spring and give up the use of their HRH titles. They also plan to stop accepting government funding and will reimburse the government for £2.4-million ($4.1-million) worth of repairs on Frogmore Cottage, which they will continue to use as a base in Britain. The couple plan to divide their time between the U.K. and Canada and have been holed up in a mansion on Vancouver Island with their nine-month-old son, Archie.

The Royal Family is believed to be concerned about how the Sussex Royal brand will be used. That could be why Harry and Meghan’s new roles will be reviewed by the royal household in a year.​

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.