Local celeb in trademark row with British royalty

By Limuel Celebria


Martin Soriano, a local businessman and somewhat of a celebrity in his younger days here in Iloilo City, is facing legal entanglements with British royalty, specifically Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, over a trademark registration.

The row stems from Soriano’s application for use of the tradename Archewell Harvatera for his cosmetic product(s).  Soriano filed his application with the country’s Intellectual Property Office last July 2020. According to records, the Royal couple’s legal representatives, Cobblestone Lane LLC, engaged a Makati-based law office which, on November 25, 2020, filed an opposition to Soriano’s use of the Archewell trademark.

Prince Harry is, of course, the Duke of Sussex, second son of Prince Charles and the late Lady Diana, and sixth in the line of succession to the British Throne. Meghan Markle is an American actress and divorcee who married Prince Harry in 2018.

In January 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan astounded the world when they announced that they would be “stepping back” from their royal duties for undisclosed reasons. It was reported that the couple – now based in America – would be pursuing charitable activities independent of the royal family and its coffers.

In March 2020 the couple announced the creation of Archewell Foundation, the name inspired by their two-year old son, Archie. “(T)he inspiration for our son’s name. To do something of meaning, to do something that matters. Archewell is a name that combines an ancient word for strength and action, and another that evokes the deep resources we each must draw upon,” a statement issued by the royal couple explained.

As per wikipedia: “Archewell Inc. is a Beverly Hills-based public organization founded by Prince Harry, and his wife Meghan. Archewell focuses on non-profit activities and creative media ventures.”

“On March 3, 2020 an International Class 35 trademark application for the name ‘Archewell’ was submitted for registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by “Cobblestone Lane LLC. The description of services for Trademark Class 35 ‘Advertising and Business’ is advertising, business management, business administration and office functions.”

Archewell’s website was “officially launched” in October 2020. Although it was reported in April 2020 that Archewell would focus on issues including “conservation, female empowerment, and gender equality,” it is now being used to engaged in commercial activities.

In December 2020, it was reported that the founders had signed a multi-year business deal with Spotify to launch a podcast through audio-producing company, Archewell Audio, a subsidiary of Archewell Inc.  Its first episode was released on December 29, 2020, with guests including Elton John, James Corden, Stacey Abrams, and Tyler Perry.

Soriano surmises that the opposition to his trademark application may stem from Archewell Foundation’s possible intention to launch a line of cosmetic products – a fashionable and highly profitable enterprise.

But who is Martin Soriano?

In the good old days, our good friend Martin Soriano could be considered some kind of royalty.  His family who hails from Northern Iloilo, was well-off and well-respected among Iloilo’s high society.  His elder sister is married to the guy who brought to Iloilo the first SM Mall branch outside of the national capital.

Martin himself established an odd following as a DJ for a local radio station when he broke an unwritten taboo. Back then, local jocks either spoke in English or in Tagalog when they are “on-the-air.” Martin broke tradition by speaking in the local dialect. He gained die-hard fans and many DJs have since followed suit.

But what made Martin a local celebrity was when – on a whim – he swam across the Guimaras Strait from Buenavista Port in Guimaras Island to a wharf at the mouth of Iloilo River, a total of some 8 nautical kilometers. The Guimaras Strait – a narrow channel separating Panay and Guimaras islands, is a treacherous body of water because of the sudden squalls that have sunk many a motor bancas and even a Huey helicopter.

Martin did the crossing unscathed in 1994.  Every minute of the swim was covered live by a local radio station. He was 30 years old.

Since then he has gone low key. Though he has done some travelling abroad, Martin is engaged in renting out condominium units in Makati and in selling his deodorants and other sundry products in outlets in the SM chain.

PS. Two days following our interview with Soriano last week, his trademark application was approved.