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?

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Comments on “UK Guy Trademarks Famous Gov't Slogan, Goes After Others For Using It”

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42 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

“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.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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?

Squirrel Brains (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

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.

John Doe says:

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.

Marcus (user link) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Matt Westcott (profile) says:

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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