What we do
The Lyon Court is a standing court of law which regulates heraldry in Scotland. It is fully integrated into the Scottish legal system and has both civil and criminal jurisdiction. The procurator fiscal appears in any proceedings before the Lyon Court on behalf of the Lord Advocate.
Persons or corporations who display heraldic devices to which they do not have a lawful right commit an offence under Scots Law. The use of symbols and devices which may be classed as a part of the system of heraldry (popularly called coats of arms etc...) is strictly controlled in Scotland. There is a Public Register of Arms and all such symbols must be recorded if they are to be legally used in Scotland. The Crown charges fees for recording and as a consequence, it is only right that it extends protection to those who comply with the law by preventing infringement by others: either copying existing Arms as if they were theirs or devising Arms without registration. Those who use arms without right may sometimes do so in ignorance of the law but it is always for a purpose: to convey a sense of status, establishment or quality. This is very similar to our laws relating to Intellectual Property, Trademarks and Copyright. It should be noted that even where an heraldic device has been incorporated into a Registered Trademark the 'mark' cannot be used in any way which would amount to an assertion (actual or implied) that the trademark holder has the right to use the Arms as their own.
There are penalties for infringing such rights and it is the duty of this office to deal with those issues relating specifically with heraldry because of its unique and important role in Scots culture particularly in relation to the clan system.
This Office regularly deals with complaints concerning alleged infringements of the Law of Arms from a variety of sources. Many of these concern unregistered 'DIY' heraldry but also usurpation of registered arms. Each complaint is investigated on its merits and it is always a matter of the procurator fiscal's absolute discretion to decide whether to prosecute infringements. If the procurator fiscal decides to act he will do so by letter, warning or, if necessary, by way of prosecution before the Lyon Court.