Barter Books hits out at EU ruling on Keep Calm phrase

Barter Books, the famous second-hand shop in Alnwick, has failed in their bid to have the EU ruling over the 'Keep Calm' phrase overturned

Stuart Manley co-owner of Barter Books in Alnwick
Stuart Manley co-owner of Barter Books in Alnwick

A famous Northumberland book shop’s bid to overturn a European ruling relating to the use of a historic phrase has failed.

Barter Books, the second-hand shop in the former train station at Alnwick, led a challenge to a European Union (EU) decision to award a trademark for the Keep Calm and Carry On phrase, which has become a global phenomenon since a chance discovery at the store.

However, bosses have now learnt that it has failed.

The shop’s owner last night voiced his displeasure at the ruling, but said it would not stop him selling Keep Calm merchandise.

Barter boss Stuart Manley discovered an original Keep Calm poster in a box of books he bought at auction in 2000.

The posters had been produced by the Government’s Ministry of Information during the Second World War, in anticipation of a German invasion.

However, they were never released when this failed to materialise, and the majority were destroyed when the war ended.

Barter Books put the poster up and was soon inundated with requests to buy copies.

It began selling Keep Calm merchandise and the slogan became popular worldwide.

However, a company which sold similar merchandise obtained a trademark from the EU for the phrase last year.

Mr Manley hired a trademark lawyer in an attempt to overturn the EU decision, working with around a dozen other parties who sell Keep Calm merchandise.

They have now learnt that their challenge has failed.

Mr Manley last night hit out at the ruling, saying that an internet search by the decision-makers in the first place would have proved how “generic” the term has become.

He accused them of failing to admit they had been wrong.

Mr Manley said he was awaiting advice from his lawyer on whether a further challenge could be made.

Nevertheless, he said the ruling would have no effect on the shop’s sale of merchandise, as long as it is trademarked Barter Books rather than Keep Calm.

He claimed the case had been beneficial to the shop, regardless of the outcome, given the publicity it has attracted.

“We and anyone else fighting it are seen as the good guys, the man behind it is seen as the bad guy,” he said.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer