Meet the Ilonggo businessman in a brand dispute with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle 2
Martin Soriano during his last visit in the United Kingdom. Photo courtesy of Soriano

Meet the Ilonggo businessman in a brand dispute with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The tawas-deodorant business owner from Iloilo, Victor Martin Soriano, says he will only stop using “Archewell” if the Queen requests him to do so
ANCX Staff | Mar 07 2021

What’s in a name? A lot, it seems, if one were to gauge it on the trademark dispute between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and a Filipino named Victor Martin Soriano. 

Soriano’s name started figuring in news stories involving the Duke and Duchess of Sussex earlier in the week. Apparently, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had named their charity foundation Archewell, which also happens to be half the brand name of the tawas deodorant owned by the Ilonggo businessman. 

According to a tweet by Soriano, Markle, via her legal counsel Federis & Associates Law Offices, blocked the final trademark registration of Archewell Harvatera, which is the brand of his tawas deodorant. (Read more about the motion issued by the law office in this link.) Soriano told ANCX that the couple’s legal representative has been requested to submit a notarized answer on March 28, 2021, to formalize their complaint.

For now, the Iloilo-born business owner has temporarily ceased to use the said brand name while awaiting advice from the court. But he told ANCX he is standing his ground, insisting Archewell is totally different from Archewell Harvatera. “I merged two words, so that makes it a different word already. So [Meghan] should not run after me,” he said Wednesday.

Meet the Ilonggo businessman in a brand dispute with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle 3
Martin Soriano describes himself as a small-time entrepreneur trying to make ends meet by selling tawas deodorant.

Leave me my name 

He insists he will fight for the name and will only back down if it’s the Queen herself, Elizabeth II, who will request that he quit using the Archewell Harvatera trademark.

Soriano says the idea to use the name came from Gina Sarabia Espinosa calling her jewelry brand Archewell. Espinosa is the wife of former Iloilo City mayor Jose Espinosa III. “Mrs. Espinosa’s trademark application was approved, so I decided to use it when I created my own brand, but added Harvatera,” he says. Soriano adds he served under the administration of Mayor Espinosa and was the one who filed the trademark application for his wife’s jewelry brand.

Harvatera, it is said, originated from the Cebuano term “harvat” meaning “arbor.” But Soriano says he actually coined the term harvatera to refer to Filipinos working in casinos in Macau, where he used to do business. “Harvatin mo na nga yan [referring to casino money],” he said, using the term in a sentence. He says this is different from the “harbatera” popularized by Lolit Solis which, according to this Philippine Star article, means “snatcher” (of food, giveaways etc.) 

“I coined the term harvatera to mean someone who works hard to earn money, like those people in Macau,” Soriano says.


Who is Soriano? 

Soriano describes himself as a small-time entrepreneur trying to make ends meet by selling tawas deodorant. “Small scale lang itong tawas business ko,” he tells ANCX. “I’m basically a repacker, although I’m classified as an importer in my DOH permit. Tawas is considered a poor man’s deodorant, but my brand positioning is parang sosyal,” he says. We requested for a photo of his product but he declined, to avoid any legal complications.

Asked what other things he does for a living, he says he’s into the lending business and also distributes distilled drinking water called Agua de Beber. His family also owns a small department store in Iloilo. Like we said in our previous article on the brand dispute, he is the first open water swimmer to cross the 7.7-kilometer Guimaras-Iloilo Strait in August 7, 1994.

The businessman says his inclination really leans toward politics, which he seemed to have realized after serving the administration of Mayor Espinosa for two years. It is his wish, he says, that the Philippines move forward under a strong leadership. He volunteers that he campaigned for Rodrigo Duterte in the last presidential elections and is a staunch supporter of Health Secretary Francisco Duque.

We asked if he is a fan of the royal couple. He said ‘No’, adding he does not wish to meet the Duke and Duchess “because I know them already.” He’s learned much about the couple reading the Todd Doors and Harry Markle blog.

The Ilonggo says he has visited the UK before, to visit relatives, in Earl’s Court in Kensington. He says he’s already seen the Queen, and felt she seems to have no problem with people using Buckingham names. So he doesn’t get why Markle and his legal team would make a fuss out of his use of Archewell.

“When I go to Windsor, I always get the homemade ice cream outside the palace,” says Soriano. “That’s obviously branded after the Queen, and the Queen doesn’t seem bothered by it.”