Thursday, February 4, 1999 Published at 17:45 GMT
Diana fund loses trademark battle
Her face to remain public property
An attempt to trademark the face of Diana Princess of Wales by her memorial fund has been turned down - paving the way for a free-for-all in Diana merchandise.
The Memorial Fund, which had wanted to clamp down on an unofficial Diana industry, had applied to protect 52 different pictures of the late princess.
But officials at the Patent Office told BBC News Online that they have now rejected the bid, deciding - in effect - that her face was too well known to be used as the badge of one supplier.
The application was made in October 1997. Its rejection will mean the fund missing out on millions of pounds of royalties - which would have been passed on to the princess's favourite charities.
In reaching the decision, the office had to consider whether people would think, on seeing merchandise with a picture of Diana's face, that it was a "badge of origin", or mere decoration.
It also considered whether the image of Diana had been used for trading before the application.
So people who trade on their celebrity have been granted trademarks of their own portraits - one example is Damon Hill, who has a trademark on the image of his eyes staring from his crash helmet.
The Fund had been attempting to stop what it saw as an unscrupulous trade in tacky souvenirs.
Had the request been granted, it would have given the Fund the right to seek royalties from anyone who had traded on Diana's image since it lodged the application, 18 months ago.
The Memorial Fund could apply to the High Court to overturn the ruling, but a spokesman for the Patent Office said this would be very unusual.
Last year, an Illinois firm, Bradford Exchange, complained against the Fund's application. It was selling a musical plate with a wedding photograph of the princess and which played Sir Elton John's Candle in the Wind.
There was also outrage over a doll of the princess which was selling in America for £60.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair joined the debate last February when he said unofficial Diana souvenirs were "tacky and inappropriate".