Sovereign - A word in general use, not a trademark

18 May 2017

In March the UK High Court upheld the decision of UKIPO to allow an opposition to registration of the word SOVEREIGN as a trademark by The Royal Mint Limited, in respect of gold commemorative coins.

As all jewellers and most members of the public know a Sovereign coin is a gold coin issued for commemorative purposes. In the UK they are made by the Royal Mint, a company owned by H.M. Treasury.The Royal Mint applied to register a word as a trademark that would grant to it a monopoly over the use of the word in relation to gold coins. Given the wide use of the word it was to be expected that the application would be opposed. 

The Royal Mint argued before the Court that since it had a monopoly on the manufacture and distribution of legal tender in the UK, so the word “sovereign” was distinctive of it’s coins. The evidence was that the word was in common use to describe coins from various different countries, not limited to the UK. Sovereigns issued outside of the UK could be lawfully traded in the UK. The argument was therefore that the word could not be considered distinctive of the Royal Mint’s coins. The Royal Mint relied upon a lot of professional evidence but this was not considered to be representative of the views of average consumers, and further the Royal Mint failed in it’s argument that the Sovereign was a type of coin rather than a denomination. 

The Court agreed with the original decision of the UKIPO as a result jewellers and other traders in gold coins are free to continue to use the word Sovereign without fear of suit for infringement of trademark. This should be of some relief to those concerned. Case :The Royal Mint Limited v. The Commonwealth Mint and Philatelic Bureau Limited [2017].

Contact us:
For all help and advice on intellectual property rights please contact Stephen Welfare on 0207 583 2222 or by email: Stephen.Welfare@roydswithyking.com

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