The Keep Calm posters were originally designed during the second World War, and meant as propaganda used to offer the British people reassurance during the dark and dangerous times. The message was simple: Keep Calm and Carry On.
The poster was never really used, until – almost 50 years later – the owner of the English bookstore Barter Books, found a copy in an old box, bought at an auction. The owners liked it so much, that they framed it and hung it on a wall in their store. The visitors liked it so much, they had copies made.
After that, it got picked up really fast, and variants on the poster turned up everywhere (many examples here).
Barter Books owner’s Stuart and Mary Manley forgot to register the phrase as a trademark, unlike a rival entrepreneur who registered a European Union trademark for his range of Keep Calm merchandise.
In order to claim what the Manley’s think is theirs, they started a campaign and a law suit.
It remains to be seen what Barter Books can claim, as they may be the ones that found the posters and were first to show them to the public. However, they did forget to trademark it. And they did not really come up with the phrase themselves. It may turn out to be a difficult legal battle. But as in all (legal) battles: Keep Calm and Carry On.
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