There seems to have been a recent increase in tourist souvenirs and other memorabilia containing the representation of The Pope. Some reasons for this include the great popularity of Pope Francis (the 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church) among Catholic people and the easy access to the Pope’s photographs online. The use of unauthorised images, symbols and official coats of arms fall within the legal scope of trade mark as well as competition law for prosecution in Italy.
Protection of The Pope’s image and holy symbols are reportedly being stepped up after a statement by the Secretariat of State was released warning against unauthorised use and misuse of the image of Pope Francis. Image right protection is particularly strong in Italy, in fact the law states:
“If the image of a person, their parents, their spouse or their children is used or published outside the cases in which use or publication is allowed by the law, or in such a way as to cause prejudice to the honour or reputation of the person themselves or their said relatives, a judicial authority upon request of the person, can repress the violation and order payment of damages.”
The Secretariat of State has also reportedly hired a law firm to monitor and repress any unauthorised third-party uses of the image of The Pope, sending cease-and-desist letters on behalf of the Vatican.
So it would seem that any memorabilia containing The Pope’s image or other holy symbols without prior authorisation from the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome are illegal and should therefore be avoided.