EU plea lost but we’ll carry on fighting

Stuart Manley with a Keep Calm and Carry On poster in Barter Books. Ref: JCNG keepcalm 4
Stuart Manley with a Keep Calm and Carry On poster in Barter Books. Ref: JCNG keepcalm 4

A campaign backed by an iconic second-hand bookshop to overturn a European ruling on a famous wartime motto has failed.

Barter Books, in Alnwick, supported action to try to quash the EU trademark registration for Keep Calm and Carry On by a company belonging to south-east businessman Mark Coop.

The application was made by Simply Printing 4U Ltd, represented by Trade Mark Direct, but has recently been turned down. It means that Mr Coop can continue to use the iconic words as a trademark throughout the EU.

But Barter Books’ owner Stuart Manley has not yet given up the fight. He criticised the decision, describing it as ‘disappointing’ and ‘perverse’, accusing Mr Coop of hijacking the phrase.

It is also a bitter pill to swallow as the story started at the store more than a decade ago.

A rare copy of the Second World War Keep Calm and Carry On poster was found at Barter Books in 2000.

Stuart and his wife Mary went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of the poster, along with other items carrying the slogan.

In 2007, Mr Coop bought several posters from the shop and began selling Keep Calm merchandise. He registered the limited company, Keep Calm and Carry On Ltd, and applied for EU trademark registration.

This was granted in 2011.

Stuart said: “Keep Calm and Carry On has become so ubiquitous, used by literally hundreds of other firms that it seems amazing that Mr Coop has been able to hijack the phrase as his own, especially given that he probably took the image from ourselves in the first place.”

Stuart added: “Anyone can sell Keep Calm products but cannot use the words as a trademark. Our position is an ethical one.”

The application to cancel the EU trademark registration was rejected because there was not enough evidence to show that the mark had already become generic before Mr Coop filed his application to the EU in 2010.

Stuart provided evidence for the hearing.

This included that an image of the original Keep Calm and Carry On poster went on display in the shop from 2000.

In a witness statement, Stuart referred to making sales of more than 100,000 copies of the Keep Calm poster along with other items using the slogan – all before Mr Coop’s filing date.

He added that ‘literally hundreds’ of manufacturers were using the slogan at the time of the trademark application.

In a witness statement by Mr Coop, he said that since 2007, firstly as a sole proprietor and then managing director, he established the Keep Calm and Carry On brand and that his goods, branded with the mark, have been sold at wholesale to nearly 170 retail outlets.

There is still time to appeal against the decision.

Stuart said: “We are seeking advice and considering what to do next which may well include inviting those who dislike the decision to complain to the EU trademark people. There are thousands of people who are unhappy with this decision and believe the poster should belong to Britain, not one person.”