Barter Books owner's keeping calm in slogan row

A NORTHUMBERLAND book shop’s bid to overturn a European Union decision over an iconic Government slogan is rumbling on into the New Year.

Stuart Manley with the poster
Stuart Manley with the poster

A NORTHUMBERLAND book shop’s bid to overturn a European Union decision over an iconic Government slogan is rumbling on into the New Year.

The challenge by bosses at Barter Books at Alnwick against a successful bid to trademark the famous Keep Calm and Carry On slogan given a renaissance by their store is not expected to be yield any progress until February.

The Keep Calm phrase adorned posters 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.

Stuart Manley, owner of the second hand book store which is based in the old Alnwick railway station, came across one of the original posters, folded in a box of books he bought at auction in 2000.

The phrase is written in white on a red background, beneath an image of a crown. Mr Manley put the poster on display in the shop and was soon inundated with requests to buy copies.

The shop eventually began selling them and as the Keep Calm notion became increasingly popular, it also started producing mugs, T-shirts, mouse mats, tea towels and postcards emblazoned with the slogan.

More than 100,000 posters have been sold by the shop to date as the slogan has become a global phenomenon.

Yet the situation became complicated when another business selling Keep Calm merchandise launched a legal bid to trademark the phrase.

Mark Coop, a former producer on TV shows who began selling mugs, aprons and other souvenirs bearing the design in 2007, failed in his bid to get it trademarked in the UK.

However, in April last year he gained a European Union (EU) trademark for the slogan.

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

They were told the process would take six or seven months from July when they were required to submit evidence in support of their claim.

Mr Manley said he had only received a copy of Mr Coop’s defence at the beginning of the month.

He added: “It so long and complicated it must have cost him a fortune. The gist of it appears to be that it does not matter who found the poster first, he is the first one who trademarked it.”

Asked his thoughts on that, the Alnwick man said: “If you applied this to everything, origination would not matter at all would it? My opinion of him is not very high.”

Mr Manley added: “One of the problems is he has not tried to stop us. We can not sue him, all we can do is help quash it.”

Mr Coop said in late 2011: “Barter Books didn’t see the opportunity that I saw, and I think they were rather naive in failing to register the domain name or trademark the slogan.

“I have made numerous efforts to make amends with them and work together, but they didn’t want to know.

“All I am trying to do is protect my business and my livelihood and prevent other people jumping on the back of what I’m doing.”

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