There are roughly 800 Royal Warrants granted but of these more than 650 businesses across the UK have recently found themselves in a position not faced by anyone since the demise of King George VI. Any organisation or brand that currently holds a Royal Warrant will have to reapply as the certification will become void within two years, since the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the change of sovereign.
A Royal Warrant of Appointment is the document that appoints a company or individual in a trading capacity to the Royal Household and that entitles the holder of the Royal Warrant to use the Royal Arms in connection with their business. But more than that, it is a symbol of quality – a sign that your product or service is fit for a King (or indeed a Queen). For many businesses, having a Royal Warrant reassures their customers that the quality of their product remains high, and that it is a worthwhile investment. Some of the late Queen's favourite products included Hunter Boots, Pringle of Scotland, Cadbury's and Bollinger Champagne.
A Royal Warrant is usually granted for up to five years. It is reviewed in the year before it is due to expire so that a decision can be made as to whether it should be renewed. Once it has been granted, businesses can add the Royal Arms to packaging, stationery and advertising, as well as vehicles and buildings – at not insignificant cost.
Due to the passing of Her Majesty The Queen, current Royal Warrants will become void. However, according to the Royal Warrant Holders Association (RWHA), the company or individual may continue to use royal insignia in connection with the business for up to two years, provided there is no significant change within the company concerned. The Royal Household will review Warrant grants upon a change of the reigning sovereign.
At Dentons, we have been contacted by several organisations who are unsure as to what this means for their business and are keen to understand how they can protect themselves from any potential implications ahead of the deadline.
It is important that businesses adhere to the two-year timescale. If you fail to reapply, or are unsuccessful, you must update your branding accordingly or be at risk of facing several consequences. Continuing use could constitute an offence under several statutory acts, such as the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, the Trade Marks Act 1994 and, if dealing with consumers, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
Continuing use of the Royal Warrant following the two-year period could lead to contracts being rescinded, reputational damage and financial risks for the business involved. It is important, therefore, that suppliers take all steps to reapply for their Royal Warrant status and, if not granted, to remove the Royal Warrant and its association to the business in good time.
Alison Bryce, Partner, Dentons