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Barter Books row rumbles on for those in legal jobs

Posted by: Laurence Simons 07/01/13

A Northumberland bookshop's bid to overturn an EU decision over the iconic Keep Calm and Carry On slogan, beloved of quirky cafe owners, personality-free students and weirdly Anglophile Americans, is set to continue into the new year.

People in lawyer jobs may be interested in the outcome of the case, which has seen Barter Books in Alnwick take on businessman Mark Coop over the EU copyright he gained for the phrase.

Initially produced by the government's Ministry of Information during World War Two, the slogan was to be spread across the UK in the event of a German invasion.

Of course, the prospective Axis attack never materialised and the majority of the posters were destroyed when the war ended.

Stuart Manley, owner of the second hand bookstore based in the old Alnwick railway station, discovered one of the original posters in a box of books purchased at auction in 2000, reports the Journal.

He put it on display in the store, which is one of the north of England's most popular second-hand bookshops, and was soon inundated with requests to buy copies. As the slogan became increasingly popular, through the kind of strange mass psychosis that saw 17th-century Europeans spend the equivalent of millions on tulips, Mr Manley began selling mugs, T-shirts and more bearing the slogan.

More than 100,000 posters have been sold by Barter Books to date as a growing number of people decided to express their individuality and unique sense of style by buying an immensely popular item and displaying it on their wall.

However, complications arose when Mr Coop began selling Keep Calm merchandise and launched a legal bid to trademark the phrase, eventually succeeding through the EU.

Speaking in late 2011, the businessman said: "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."

Mr Manley has hired a trademark lawyer in an attempt to overturn the EU decision through an appeals process, working with several other retailers who also sell the merchandise but recognise his intellectual ownership of the concept.

After receiving Mr Coop's defence, he told the Journal: "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."

The EU is expected to make a decision in February, with all parties advised to, um, keep calm and carry on until then.