As the Duchess of Cambridge adjusts to royal life, she does so bearing a new coat of arms. The College of Arms, on April 19, 2011, granted a coat of arms for the family of Catherine Middleton in the form of a shield to Catherine’s father and his descendants. The purpose of the coat of arms is to provide a traditional heraldic identity for Catherine as she marries into the Royal Family. The Middleton coat of arms bears symbolic meaning in terms of colour and images.

The tremendous public interest in the Royal Wedding offers many opportunities for memorabilia manufacturers to promote and sell their goods. However, retailers of such memorabilia need to be cognizant of the royal images used on their goods, such as coats of arms. In the U.K., The Trade Marks Act 1994 prohibits the use of, among other things, royal arms, royal devices and emblems (or of arms, devices or emblems which are so similar as to deceive) in connection with any trade or business, or to suggest that the person is employed by or supplies goods to a member of the Royal Family, unless permission from the member of the Royal Family concerned has been obtained.

Similar legislation exists in Canada. The Trade-marks Act forbids the use of the arms or crests of any member of the Royal Family. Specifically, section 9(1) states:

“no person shall adopt in connection with a business, as a trade-mark or otherwise, any mark consisting of, or so nearly resembling as to be likely to be mistaken for, among others, the royal arms, crest or standard, or the arms or crest of any member of the Royal Family.”

Legal restrictions governing the use of Royal images (including coats of arms) were temporarily relaxed by Prince William to allow their use on souvenirs up to October 1, 2011, provided product qualifications are satisfied.1 Manufacturers, importers and retailers should consider following all of the memorabilia guidelines or seeking permission from the royal family to produce any goods that are not on the permissible memorabilia list. Should this protocol not be followed, they could face penalties.

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