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Wednesday, February 25, 1998 Published at 17:15 GMT

Special Report

The battle for Diana's lucrative legacy
image: [ The Diana
The Diana "industry" is worth millions of pounds

It is a sad fact, but some people have made a fortune out of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Many of these purveyors of kitsch could however be about to receive some rather large bills.

The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund has applied to the Patent Office to register her likeness as a trademark.

Her mother, Frances Shand-Kydd, and her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, as executors of her estate, are seeking the copyright on the phrase "The People's Princess".

And a company is also trying to buy the rights to use the slogan "The Princess of Hearts".

The Patent Office is expected to make a decision on whether to grant the applications within days and spokesman Geoff Sargant says if granted they would be backdated to the application date.

Millions are at stake

This would mean that anyone who has made a profit using these phrases or an image of Diana would have to reimburse the trademark owners.

Sporting precedent

Mr Sargant said the fund's application is not unprecedented.

Several sportsmen, including Damon Hill and Paul Gascoigne, have been granted similar rights to their own likeness.

The former Manchester United star Eric Cantona also registered the phrase "Ooh aah Cantona !" as a trademark even though it was invented by Leeds United fans.

[ image: Eric Cantona...set a precedent]
Eric Cantona...set a precedent
The concept of trademarking a likeness - which is common in the United States - contradicts the British law of copyright.

This states that the rights to a photographic image, drawing or painting belong to the photographer or artist rather than the subject.

According to Vanessa Corringham, a spokeswoman for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, 26 photographic images were supplied to the Patent Office showing Diana at various ages, in different attire and with a range of hairstyles.

She says that "this action is being taken as a preventative move, prompted by the extensive misappropriation of her image. Trademark protection would give a platform from which to take action against unscrupulous exploitation of her image."

Crackdown on profiteers

Ms Corringham insists that the ruling would not affect the media and was designed simply to crack down on profiteers such as those "selling T-shirts in Carnaby Street".

If successful the fund would have a monopoly on Diana merchandise with all proceeds going to the charities she supported during her life.

Ms Corringham says, the Fund's trustees "hope that because of the Paris Convention on trademarks this protection can be extended around the world."

In the last six months hundreds of thousands of Diana coins, plates, mugs, T-shirts, videos, books and ashtrays have been sold in Britain alone and many have been, in Prime Minister Tony Blair's words, "inappropriate and tacky".

Bryan Lewin, a trading standards officer in Diana's home county of Northamptonshire, estimates that the Diana "industry" will be worth 100m ($164m) over the next 10 years.

[ image: Princess Diana was the world's most photographed woman]
Princess Diana was the world's most photographed woman
He said: "It's going to be a massive business and we have no doubt at all some people are going to exploit this situation."

Mr Lewin said: "Our role is two-fold. Under the Trademarks Act, people can be prosecuted for infringing registered trademarks.

"We are also looking out for false claims being made about an item being authorised by the princess's family or the proceeds going to the fund.

"If a trader says an amount will be donated to the fund and that amount is so small to be insignificant we would still consider action."

The positive side of the Diana business

Although many companies and individuals have profited from the tide of goodwill following Diana's death it has also benefited dozens of charities.

One of the best fund-raising efforts was a recording of "Candle in the Wind", the song Elton John sang at her funeral, which was released on a specially created label owned solely by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

After Diana's death in September, mourners around the world flocked to buy the recording, which sold 31.8 million copies and became the world's most successful single, generating 20m for the Diana, Princess of Wales Fund.

A 36-track album honouring Diana's life went on sale before Christmas, and has already sold millions of copies.

The fund is considering a further 250 commercial projects and in March will begin handing out the first cheques to some of the charities closest to Diana's heart.

BBC News special report online:
Death of a Princess: Six months on...

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