The much-loved “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON” motivational posters that were produced during World War II have been the subject of a recent trademark row – one that a Newbury trademark specialist Dale Campbell of Trademark Tribe says could have been avoided.
The long-forgotten posters were found in an old box of books that Barter Books purchased at auction. Designed to boost morale during the war, they were never actually issued but have enjoyed recent popularity thanks to their upbeat message.
However, Mark Coop of Keep Calm and Carry On registered the phrase as a trademark (along with other people) in 2007 for various goods including household and kitchen utensils and clothing, and the wholesaler supplies more than 170 retail outlets, including John Lewis, Debenhams, Heals and River Island.
The row broke out recently when Coop filed evidence against Kerry Cade from Simply Printing to stop her from using the phrase on her products. She argued that the phrase was in common use and should be available to decorate items.
Barter books had previously sold copies of the poster through their shop. They also filed evidence in the case on behalf of Mrs Cade to say that only 41,000 copies of the poster were sold by them. Barter Books did apply the slogan to other goods but did not register it as a trademark.
Campbell, European trademark attorney and director of Trademark Tribe in Newbury, said: “The EU Office (OHIM) did not agree with Mrs Cade and has ruled that it is indeed a trademark. This ruling has important implications for those who infringe a trademark registration and a moral for those owners who fail to register their brand.
“A trademark registration grants ownership of the brand name for the goods and services which allows them to protect their goodwill and to take action should others begin using the name without their permission.
“When another business sells your goods without you having control of the quality and the use of the brand, they harm your business by stealing your potential customers and could damage your brand by selling inferior goods.”
Campbell added: “Mr Coop developed goodwill in the brand and the registration as a trademark has legitimately allowed Keep Calm and Carry On to protect this goodwill, which is the essential function of a trademark.
“It may be a difficult trademark to defend due to the popularity of its own success, but whether you agree or disagree with the decision, you cannot argue the fact that Keep Calm and Carry On had the foresight to produce household items and clothing. You could argue that he worked hard and spent considerable money in bringing the goods to market and now he is begrudged the success by others that would like to infringe his trademark right.”