UK Guy Trademarks Famous Gov't Slogan, Goes After Others For Using It

from the keep-calm-and-carry-on-suing dept

During World War II, the British government apparently created a slogan and poster that read Keep Calm and Carry On:
While it had been mostly forgotten, apparently the poster was "rediscovered" in a used bookstore. The reason it was forgotten, apparently, was that this poster was designed to be used in case the Germans actually invaded the UK -- so it was never widely released. While government produced works are the kind of thing that should be public domain automatically, in the UK they do have Crown Copyright -- but that expired in 1989. So the image is in the public domain. Not surprisingly, this has spurred on a bunch of folks to start selling merchandise with the poster on it, including the owner of the bookshop who found it back in 2000.

And yet... another guy has gone out and trademarked the phrase and is seeking takedowns on anyone selling competing merchandise. In the video at that BBC link, the guy who now owns the trademark, Mark Coop, really comes across as having a massive sense of entitlement for taking something in the public domain and locking it up:
"Having quit the day job, and put my life and soul into this, and build it up and then rely on it for my livelihood, I have to protect my own interests. You know, and faced with the risk of losing everything you've worked for, I find it hard to believe that other people wouldn't do the same thing."
Wow. First of all, Coop isn't at risk of "losing everything." He can still keep selling the same products. The trademark itself seems highly questionable, since the phrase first came from the government in 1939 and was used popularly in the UK in the early 2000s before Coop went into business. The fact that he quit his day job to do this is meaningless under trademark law. What about the others who did the same who are now being blocked by Coop? Coop goes on, condescendingly:
"Had I not built this up, they probably wouldn't never heard of it. They wouldn't, you know, have ever even seen it. So, I think they're jumping on the back of what I, essentially, came up with."
Except, um, he didn't come up with it. The UK government did. And others appeared to have begun selling it before he did. So what claim does he really have here?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 11:50am

    "Having quit the day job, and put my life and soul into this, and build it up and then rely on it for my livelihood, I have to protect my own interests. You know, and faced with the risk of losing everything you've worked for, I find it hard to believe that other people wouldn't do the same thing."

    He quit his day job to become a trademark troll? Someone should've told him to "Keep Calm and Carry On" before he did that.

     

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      Gabriel Tane (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 12:04pm

      Re:

      I did a basic bit of research (ok... I clicked on the Wiki link Mike provided above) and found this article:

      http://www.freelanceuk.com/news/3912.shtml

      In it, it states that Coop was a ~drum roll~ FREELANCE PRODUCER! So he quit a day job that amounted to constantly hunting for work to ballride off someone else's work and sit on his own ass.

      What a shitbag. What a lazy shitbag. He can always just pick up his freelance work again. Seems like his 'interests' amount to an ass-shaped dent in a couch.

      Nice to see that someone else is trying to smack him down for being an over-entitled little dick.

       

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      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
         
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 12:13pm

        Re: Re:

        Yeah, but wait. What you are saying is that he is an advance freetard, because he not only took something for free without respect to it's original creators, but also tried to come up with a way to make money with it.

        Fuck me, if this was a pirate movie site you could would be praising him as a new age entrepreneur.

         

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          Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 12:21pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Right, because there have been absolute BUCKETS of "pirate movie" sites just lashing out at others to lock up long-ago created government works focusing on potential Nazi invasions....

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 12:24pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          What part of the original article or Gabriel Tane's comment left you with the impression that either were suggesting the thing Coop was doing that was wrong was using the phrase and making money off of it? NO ONE SAID THAT.

           

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          Gabriel Tane (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 12:25pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Cute. Thank you for putting words in my mouth, because fuck me if that thought didn't even occur to me.

          Oh wait! That's right! It didn't occur to me because it's 100% bullshit.

          The 'freetards' you so lovingly bathe with your sharp, witty devil's-tongue are all people who SUPPORT the creators... they don't like supporting the tyrannical distributors of those works, but they LOVE to support the people who make them.

          What this guy is doing is taking something from the public domain, locking it up and insisting that people pay him for it.

          Sorry if you think there's some kind of parallel to commercial piracy (you know... the people who produce thousands of copies of stolen media for the purpose of selling... not the downloaders who get it to watch/listen to on their own terms), but I guess you have to be wrong sometimes.

           

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            cc (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 12:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Don't feed the troll. Click 'report' and carry on.

             

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              Gabriel Tane (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 12:46pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Nah, I won't click report on that... I save that for Spam.

              And I wasn't really feeding... I just wanted to exercise my locution. Better to do that with worthless trolls... you know, give them a reason for being here. :)

               

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            Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 1:46pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            You said pretty much exactly what I said, but you said it in different terms.

            He is a lazy shitbag. He clearly isn't intending to do anything original, and he wants to make his living off of the works of others, and feels he has some rights to them.

            Just like any sampling music manipulator (aka "dj") or any other the other charter members of the Tardian alliance.

            Sorry your logical mind can't quite see what you are actually saying, but hey, I'm just saying, you know?

             

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              Any Mouse (profile), Sep 24th, 2011 @ 3:34am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              If you can't see the difference between the two things you just tried to compare, then you fail in logic, in the argument, and as a human being.

               

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          Squirrel Brains (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 12:29pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Really, it would really more be like if a pirate site found an old copy of Waterworld, put their "blood, sweat, and tears" into selling it, then sued Universal Pictures for copyright infringement.

          I mean, you could make it a little less obvious that you wanted to come here and bash "freetards" no matter what the actual story was. You, sir, fail.

           

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          Josef Anvil (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 2:09pm

          Re: Re: Re: Totally missing the point..

          "Yeah, but wait. What you are saying is that he is an advance freetard, because he not only took something for free without respect to it's original creators, but also tried to come up with a way to make money with it.

          Fuck me, if this was a pirate movie site you could would be praising him as a new age entrepreneur."


          This comment shouldn't be flagged. It shows how incredibly stupid the trolls can be. The pirate movie sites DO NOT claim that the content belongs to them and then sue the movie companies for showing their content.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 9:03pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Totally missing the point..

            No, they just claim the content is "free" and use it as the raw product for their websites.

            Not really a big difference at the end of the day, it's still two groups using something that really isn't theirs and acting all smugly like they have some rights.

             

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          Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 3:36pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          ...but also tried to come up with a way to make money with it.

          It's not that he stole a PD phrase to make money.

          It's keeping others from doing the same thing (probably better)

           

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    Richard (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 11:50am

    Suggestion

    Too Mark Coop

    There's a phrase I remember from somewhere to help you get through this difficult situation - what was it now? ...

    Oh yes "Keep calm and carry on!"

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 11:52am

    "Having quit the day job, and put my life and soul into this, and build it up"

    So he had to quit his job and put his life and soul into the simple process of filing some paperwork with the government? What would that take, about an hour or two?!

     

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    John Doe, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 11:53am

    The guy is a genius really

    With the current state of IP law, he can go after infringers for tens or hundreds of thousands of $$$ per infringement. By the time this trademark gets over turned, he will be set for life. Or perhaps the trademark doesn't get overturned because IP law is at the forefront these days and we all know without those laws, there will be no incentive to create. Or recreate in this case.

     

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      Marcus, Oct 11th, 2011 @ 4:19pm

      Re: The guy is a genius really

      With the current state of IP law, he can go after infringers for tens or hundreds of thousands of $$$ per infringement.


      Regardless of what IP law says he could go after, it would be unrealistic for him to believe he could actually end up collecting anywhere near that much money, if any at all.

      I suspect he may convince a few more e-retailers (like eBay) to pull competitors' "keep calm" merch, but only a little while longer before this all gets struck down and everyone can, well, carry on.

       

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    HothMonster, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 11:56am

    "So what claim does he really have here? "

    that hes a either a giant douchebag or a turd sandwich

     

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    Havoc (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 12:22pm

    Seen it other places over the years, mostly on Fark. Good luck with this, it's destined to end badly.

     

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    Jim_G, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 1:01pm

    I think the problem here is that the UK trademark system is wacky. Essentially the government made a ridiculous promise to Mark Coop, that they would grant him a monopoly on something within the public domain. The fact this was done seems much more newsworthy to me than an argument between two ebay sellers.

     

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      annon, Sep 25th, 2011 @ 1:50pm

      Re: Jim_G, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 1:01pm

      Knowing the UK Trade Mark agency would most likely of rejected his application, he underhandedly registered with the EU Trade Mark community, who clearly donít know the significance this slogan has to the UK and the history behind the original image.

       

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    Ben (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 1:02pm

    Um...

    Sounds like he should follow the advice of 'his' own slogan

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 1:35pm

    Hey, it takes a lot of work to steal a trademark that's in the public domain!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 3:37pm

    Trademark exists solely for the purpose this guy is using it for - and you're lambasting him for exploiting it for a business need.

    Now once more with feeling...he's properly using trademark to trademark a phrase for his business...TRADEMARK DOESN'T CARE WHO CAME UP WITH THE PHRASE, So you're claim that the gov't made it up actually is completely irrelevant, but I guess that's never stopped you from making any stupid statements.

    Techtards just want to bitch, whine and complain because this guy is using proper the proper techniques to secure a business model. WAAH!!!! Keep crying, then go surf 4chan.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 4:47pm

      Re:

      You seem pretty good at crying too.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 5:12pm

      Re:

      Trademark exists solely for the purpose this guy is using it for


      for lazy assholes who want make money by obligating others to pay for things they didn't even make? i don't remember that being anything remotely close to the truth... but, ok

       

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      hmm (profile), Sep 24th, 2011 @ 7:22am

      Re:

      never seen a post as incorrect as this..you say trademark law doesn't care who came up with the phrase?

      I dare you to try to trademark someone's famous catchphrase and see how long it takes before your ass is stretched longer than a copyright extension.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 3:39pm

    UK trademarks affect American products?

    If you trademark something in England, but NOT the US, can you sue if the same PD phrase is used on US products?

     

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    greg.fenton (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 4:52pm

    Carry On, Indeed

    Sure is a bloody shame that no one ever used the phrase "Carry On" in any way before now.

    ...er-r-r-r...except maybe the Carry On films.

     

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    mike allen (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 10:57pm

    Perhaps the UK prime minister gave him his new phrase "stay calm dear" though that was first used by a comedian not David Cameron.

     

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    BentFranklin (profile), Sep 24th, 2011 @ 5:11am

    Does public domain even apply to trademarks?

     

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    hmm (profile), Sep 24th, 2011 @ 7:19am

    t-shirt idea

    How about a t-shirt that says "Keep Calm and Carry on (wasting your money on these retarded lawsuits Mr Coop)"
    Wear it to court for giggles!

    Also if I was the judge everytime there was an interruption I'd point to the noisy person and say Keep calm, then point back to the lawyers and say "carry on"

     

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    Matt Westcott, Sep 24th, 2011 @ 7:39am

    To see why this isn't as black-and-white as it looks at first, imagine if this was the story of someone innocently selling t-shirts on eBay with the word "Gap" printed on them, and then being outraged when a big American company bullies them, claiming that they have a trademark on the word Gap. How dare they?! How can somebody claim to 'own' a word that's been around for centuries? (Well done, you just learned what a trademark is. If you're still not convinced, make it a story about selling computers with the word "apple" on instead...)

    FWIW, I think there is a subtle difference here: even if he was genuinely the first person to come up with the idea of putting those words on a t-shirt, the slogan is doing more than just marking out the product as coming from his company - he's trading off the slogan's existing value as a recognisable phrase that people would enjoy having on a t-shirt. But it's certainly not a frivolous claim, and I wouldn't want to be the one arguing against it in court.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2011 @ 4:56pm

    I'm sick and tired of public domain theft.

     

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    Steve, Sep 25th, 2011 @ 1:10pm

    Overturning the trademark...

    More info on this trademark dispute can be viewed here http://keepcalmcampaign.co.uk We are currently trying to overturn the EU trademark and an application has been submitted to cancel the trademark on the grounds that the words are too widely used for one person to own the exclusive rights.

     

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