3 September 2020TrademarksSarah Morgan

UKIPO rejects royal butler trademark at Queen’s behest

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has refused to register ‘The Royal Butler’ as a trademark, following an opposition by the Lord Chamberlain, on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen.

Late last month, the office concluded that the trademark—which also features an image of part of a lion wearing a crown and covers education and entertainment services—was likely to indicate that the user has, or has recently had, royal patronage or authorisation.

The trademark was applied for by Grant Harrold, who served as a butler in the royal household between 2005 and 2011. His website,, offers etiquette and butler classes.

After the trademark’s publication in July 2018, the Lord Chamberlain (who has responsibility for granting or withholding consent to the registration of royal trademarks) opposed the mark, citing concerns that it may lead average consumers to believe that the party using the mark has royal patronage or consent.

The registrar’s examiner acted on this information, raising belated objections to the application under sections 3(5) and 4(1)(d) of the Trade Marks Act 1994.

Under these sections, a trademark shall not be registered if it contains words, letters or devices likely to lead persons to think that the applicant either has or recently has had royal patronage or authorisation, unless consent has been given by or on behalf of Her Majesty.

Following an ex parte hearing in February 2019, the registrar’s objection to the application was waived. The hearing officer concluded that in the context of the services covered by the application (particularly entertainment services), the words ‘The Royal Butler’ would be taken by the public to indicate a fictional, not real, character.

The Lord Chamberlain’s separate opposition, which had been suspended pending the resolution of the registrar’s own objection, was then resumed.

Allan James, on behalf of the IPO, concluded that the “user of a trademark featuring the words ‘The Royal Butler’ in relation to training/instruction in relation to the services of a butler and/or etiquette would be assumed to be someone who holds, or has recently held, the office or official title of The Royal Butler in the royal household”.

James added that the resemblance between the lion in the applied-for mark and a heraldic emblem is “enhanced by the crown on the lion’s head and by the representation of the device in the colour gold”.

Harrold had argued that the Lord Chamberlain had delayed in objecting to his use of the name ‘The Royal Butler’ despite his use of that name since 2011 or 2012.

“The thrust of his complaint appears to be that, in view of the delay, it would inequitable to allow the opponent’s opposition to the application he filed in 2018. Without being able to frame his point in legal terms, the applicant appears to be seeking to rely on the defence of laches,” said the office.

However, the IPO went on to conclude that even if laches could provide a defence to the opposition, there was no merit in Harrold’s case.

According to James, the evidence indicated that Harrold only started to use the trading style ‘The Royal Butler’ consistently in late 2014 or 2015 and that the Cabinet Office’s constitutional policy team wrote to the applicant in November 2015 expressing concern about his use of the words ‘Royal Butler’, but he persisted in using the name.

“In these circumstances, there is no basis for the applicant’s complaint that the opponent stood back and, by 2018, had lulled him into a reasonable belief that there was no objection to his use or registration of the contested mark. The opponent’s conduct clearly does not bar this opposition,” said James.

The application was refused and Harrold was ordered to pay the Lord Chamberlain £2,500 ($3,325).

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