Prince Harry and Meghan could face costly fight for Sussex Royal brand

Caroline Davies

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex face an “expensive and complicated” battle if forced to change their Sussex Royal brand, experts have said.

The future of the brand name is in doubt after the Queen banned Harry and Meghan from using their HRH styles, and announced they would no longer act as official representatives of the royal family.

The couple was forced to sacrifice their royal status in return for “complete and absolute” freedom from any financial constraints by Buckingham Palace over future commercial deals, sources said.

The hardline move by Buckingham Palace is an unwelcome blow to the pair, who had hoped to run business ventures alongside performing some royal duties.

In a passionate speech on Sunday, Harry said the couple felt they had “no other option” but to step away. He is expected to fly to Canada within days where he, Meghan and baby son Archie will spent the majority of their time as they enter a one-year transition period.

Related: Harry and Meghan: legal actions show level of distrust in UK press

The Sussex Royal name, featuring a moniker of H and M entwined and topped off with a crown, is at the centre of the couple’s social media presence, including their new website, Instagram account and future charitable foundation.

Whether they can continue to use it is one of the many issues “to be worked through”, with a final decision yet to be made.

Critics claim the title is not sustainable, given the clear message from the Queen that the couple will not be trading on their royal credentials.

One leading PR said the pair should fight tooth and nail to keep it. “They have to fight for it. What else are they going to be? Harry and Meghan Windsor?” said Mark Borkowski.

Changing it would be “expensive and incredibly complicated”, he said. “There will be a lot of entrepreneurs out there who have been looking at variations of that name, and who have been creating land grabs for it.”

While keeping the name might attract criticism, not keeping it would not avoid future intense scrutiny of the couple. “Nothing is going to stop the level of scrutiny whatever they do” Borkowski said.

One possible solution would be to use Sussex Royal for charitable endeavours only, said David Haigh, chief executive of Brand Finance, a leading brand valuation consultancy.

“Personally, I think they would be well advised to do that. They could have different trademarks for their commercial activities and that would make it clear to everyone they are not trying to trade on their royal heritage, at least not so obviously.”

The couple has made applications to register Sussex Royal as a global trademark for a range of items and activities, including clothing, stationery and the running of “emotional support groups”, international filings suggest.

Applications to trademark Sussex Royal for various goods and activities were lodged with UK intellectual property authorities last June by the couple’s advisers, with ownership switched to the pair in December.

Using “royal” in a trademark was difficult, as it is a reserved word, closely guarded, and anyone trademarking it might need official permission, Haigh said.

The couple had registered it in six out of 45 classes and in categories linked to charitable endeavours, he said. If it was to change it was better at this early stage.

Haigh said: “It’s only problematic when it is well established and everyone is fully aware of what it is. At the moment, everyone knows them, but I don’t think Sussex Royal is that well-known a brand. Personally, I don’t even think it’s a very good brand. I think they should get a different one.

“I would think more people would probably think it is more logical to have a trademark saying ‘Harry and Meghan’ . The real thing is having their pulling power behind it.”

They faced the “mother-of-all punch-ups” protecting it in a global markets, with others snapping up domain names to cash in. “The fact is, it’s a minefield. They are going to have real problems,” he said.

Borkowski said: “If they haven’t thought this through, which they might not have, they have got some massive challenges ahead of them.”