Keep calm but mind how you carry on
POSSIBLY one of the first truly iconic images of the 21st Century was thought up by an unknown Civil Servant in the Ministry of Information in 1939.
Created to boost morale following the anticipated invasion of Britain by Germany, the "Keep Calm Carry On" message can now be seen almost everywhere. As we were never invaded the majority of the posters were turned to pulp. Only when Barter Books discovered the poster amongst a collection of dusty books at an auction and hung it up outside their store in 2001 did the public at large glimpse it for the first time.
It is now impossible to go a day without seeing the font and a bold coloured background relaying the same or slightly altered messages; a branding manager's dream come true!
The use however is now being curtailed following the registration of the phrase as a Community Trade Mark (CTM) on 25 March 2011.
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Many people are enraged that one entrepreneur's vision can prevent others from merchandising a quintessentially British phrase. In fact, attempts are still being made to revoke the granting of the CTM, claiming he shouldn't be able to hijack a piece of British history.
Much of the animosity towards Mark Coop, the owner of KeepCalmCarryOn Ltd who pioneered the business of applying the message to mugs and T-shirts, is based on the misunderstanding of intellectual property (IP) rights.
Many assert he cannot claim rights because it is a phrase that attracts copyright protection. Although it did once benefit from Crown copyright, this expired after 50 years leaving it open to anyone to use and register as a trademark if they can show the phrase is associated with their business.
Mr Coop began so using it and selling his products marked with the phrase. As with everything that becomes popular, people will want to emulate it and so our market place soon became flooded with products bearing the phrase. Mr Coop was astute enough to register the phrase as a CTM meaning that in respect of clothing, paper based products and household goods only, KeepCalmandCarryOn Ltd can legitimately sell items bearing the mark in Europe. However, as marks are registered against different "classes" (ie types) of goods, a different company has the right to sell perfumes and fragrances bearing the phrase and another can use it in connection with beers, wines and contraception products.
Variations of the phrase will be acceptable, even those using the same font and bold colour background, but anyone who reproduces the exact phrase could find themselves on the wrong end of a trade mark infringement action if the product they sell falls within the class of products already protected. So Keep Calm but mind how you carry on.
For further information and advice – please contact Steve Murray, head of IP, at Rickerbys LLP Solicitors on 01242 246494 or email Steve at email@example.com