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How the word ‘Royal’ and similar words or emblems are protected

The word ‘Royal’ has special meaning which may attach to any organisation or business activity to which it is applied. For this reason, New Zealand has specific rules and procedures governing its use which vary depending on how it will be used.

Use of the word 'Royal' in organisational names or in business needs to be authorised by the King or the Governor-General.

Without their permission, use of the word ‘Royal’ is an offence under the Flags, Emblems and Names Protection Act 1981. There are a few exceptions, for example the use of ‘Royal’ in relation to a surname or place name or when permitted under another Act.

Similar protection is extended to other words or emblems that claim or imply the patronage of the King or another member of the Royal Family. Using these words requires specific authorisation from the King or the Governor-General.

We can provide more detailed guidance about the legislation and specific applications.

Using ‘Royal’ as part of an organisation’s name

Permission to use the title ‘Royal’ as part of an organisation’s name is a mark of Royal favour and can only be granted by the King. The title ‘Royal’ is subject to the Royal prerogative and permission to use it is given sparingly. The reasons for granting or refusing a request are not disclosed.

All applicants must satisfy the following general conditions before we can consider their application:

  • be non-profit
  • have a charitable or scientific status
  • be of considerable eminence
  • operate on a national scale.

These general conditions are of longstanding. The grant of the title ‘Royal’ is not, and never has been, a right that can be claimed by a body fulfilling certain criteria.

If your organisation or body wish to apply for the grant of the title ‘Royal’ you need to provide us with the following information:

  • reason(s) why you are seeking the title ‘Royal’
  • a history of your organisation/body
  • your organisation’s future plans
  • your current administration and activities
  • details of leading members and membership numbers
  • reports and accounts for the last three years
  • details of any Royal or government associations
  • details of publications, providing examples where necessary
  • any other information you consider appropriate.

We may consult with third parties on the application where appropriate.

Using ‘Royal’ as part of a business activity

The New Zealand Companies Office and the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) refer to us any applications to register the name of a company (or other legal entity) or a trademark including the word ‘Royal’.

Applications should include:

  • a profile of your business and or organisation that explains what it does
  • a history of the organisation or business
  • a copy of a recent annual report (where applicable).

In assessing applications, we consider the following two factors:

  • Does the use of the word ‘Royal’ suggest Royal sanction or approval where none exists?
  • Is the proposal likely to cause offence or generate inappropriate association with (and reflect negatively on) the Sovereign?

We also consider anything else that may be relevant to an application and consult with third parties if necessary.

We then give our advice to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage who refers applications for the use of the word ‘Royal ’in an organisation’s name or trademark to the Governor-General to consider.

Contact us for more help

Contact us for more information or help for applications to use the word ‘Royal’ and other protected terms:

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (04) 499-4229.