ENGLAND–The image of the late Princess Diana should belong to the world instead of to her memorial fund, a copyright examiner in the English Patent Office ruled in early July.
The decision ends, for now, seven months of controversy over whether the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund will be able to turn Diana’s image into millions of dollars of aid for her favorite charities.
In December, trustees from the fund sent 26 photographs of the late princess to the Patent Office, in an attempt to trademark her image as intellectual property. The trustees had hoped to license the images for use on goods and souvenirs to be sold all over the world for the benefit of Diana’s many charities, according to The Times of London, kitchen utensils, Christmas tree decorations, games, advertising rights, food condiments and clothing were among the items considered by the Fund.
The application has been watched by English entertainment and athletic celebrities who want to control the exploitation of their images and by opponents who fear that it would open the “floodgates” and allow celebrities to stop anybody from using pictures of them without permission, according to The Times.
Noting that the law requires that an image be distinctively linked with the origin of the good, the copyright examiner ruled that Princess Diana’s image, however popular, has little if any connection to the classes of goods named in the application.
The Patent Office’s ruling can be appealed to a more senior official at the office and later to the English courts. The trustees of the fund have until the end of August to appeal or the application will be officially withdrawn from consideration.