Keep Calm and Clarify

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Barter Books Popularised the Keep Calm and Carry On poster, having unearthed one at the bottom of a box of books bought at auction

Then Yes No Maybe started printing, marketing, selling the T shirts with the iconic print as part of the A/W Yes No Maybe collection in 2005, (as was MHI, independently, on the other side of london) and then it all went a bit wild.

There was then a deluge of other T shirt producers who recognised this graphic -powerful, beautiful, abstract, soothing, alliterating, succinct, hand drawn, slightly irregular font, the crown - super-British with stiff upper lip sentiment, that speaks to people in time of crisis (seems like that’s always these days!) McClaggan Smith were making lovely mugs (we stock them too) Keep Calm Gallery were making sweet, hand printed posters, EVERYONE was jumping on board.

The point is that it’s wonderful and nobody owns it. It’s in the public domain. How can you trademark something you didn’t create ? or do first? Or adapt? Just because you put your “Life and Soul” into something - that doesn’t make it yours.

We have designed hundreds of original and licenced garments, but this one was in the public domain that generated some of the most attention. So We Kept printing them! And others started printing them - on cafepress and other sites that allow you to upload your artwork and become a T shirt “shop” instantly.

And our orders really increased for the print- It became one of our best sellers and we produced them in increasingly bigger volumes. We knew that this print was in the public domain - out of copyright etc, and we learned a lot from the history composed by Dr. Bexl - (links to follow)

When we discovered that keepcalm& had been snapped up and was trading we checked it out and was disturbed to find a site that looked VERY similar to ours.

We also saw colour choices for prints and T shirts had been copied and our suppliers too! The product was virtually indistinguishable to ours.

Then we delved deeper and found that the Terms and conditions on their site had the same spelling mistakes that I had made in ours!

We tried sending them an email requesting they stop it and generate some new ideas - though when we were told to where stick it, we realised that the flipside of using the print without any Copyright (which legal counsel had told us was impossible) was that everyone else was perfectly welcome to also. We wanted to instigate proceedings against the proprietors of KeepCalm& for passing off, as we felt like he was capitalizing on our hard work and marketing we had been doing until he started - but it would be hard to prove how many sales we actually lost from people looking for a YNM Keep Calm T they had seen - on a celebrity, or a stranger in the street even - we had sold thousands before the competition existed. Fact.

And that’s business, you say. Fair enough. All our other prints are licensed from designers or artists, and we would sue if somebody copied them.

So the ‘Keep Calm situation simply became: outperform the competition. Great! I mean - frustrating, but that’s business - It meant our Keep Calm collection had to sell at a more competitive price than the rest of our range, and we had to invent interesting new twists: Nail stud prints, a Halloween edition, and of course all carry the Yes No Maybe brand logo on the neck and woven label at the bottom. For authenticity - So they can be identified as a YNM original.

That’s how we can spot Rupert Grint at a Harry Potter premiere in one of ours and Katie Price wearing one of ours in the tabloids

Rupert in YNM

Marc Coop on the news was ridiculous.

The fact is, he was not responsible for popularising the slogan. He is just part of a larger group of people (also with families and “interests” to support) who profit in one way or another from this Meme that captured the mood of the nation.

The Sun printed the slogan on the front page during the football. The Hasidic Jews are using it as their slogan this Yom Kippur. The Police used it for their Ads. So do TK MAXX and it’s on pretty much anything you can merchandise.

I happen to think that ours is the best - in terms of quality, value, and heritage. ships worldwide.

The UK trade mark application made by Coop in 2007 was, quite rightly, thrown out by the Intellectual Property Office. and with enough support any legal claims that Marc Cooper has with regard to a trademark on the slogan will be overturned.

We were printing, marketing and selling merchandise with the Keep Calm and Carry On print since we bought our poster from Barter Books in July 2005 and we have proof of our worldwide online and wholesale orders dating back to 2006.

click the link to jump to our lovely micro site: KeepCalmLondon Just because he printed a lot of T shirts and bought in a bunch of merchandise, it doesn’t give him any right to Monopolise this British Wartime slogan.

The best part of all this is that I am constantly reminded to stay composed by this poster above my desk… so it will all work out ok. We have the good guys on our side!

Be a good Guy and sign this petition: takes 30 seconds:


Saturday , September 24, 2011 02:07 PM
Nikki Lewis

Having purchased a poster and mugs from this site a couple of years ago and seen the interview with Mark Coop on the BBC, I@m totally with you on this. He is a selfish opportunist.

Saturday , September 24, 2011 02:27 PM

Amen. Glad you’ve made a post about this.

I remember years ago when you redesigned your website (I emailed you about the designs of the buttons I think, and told you to use Helvetica instead of Arial if I remember rightly…), and I think that was the time the your Keep Calm stuff came about. Well before Mark.

Well if anything, out of his ignorant interview, hopefully you guys, Barter Books and Dr. Bex get some positive exposure out of it!

Sunday , September 25, 2011 12:32 PM

Mark Coop seriously believes that he is responsible for the popularity of the poster. Faced with the hard facts, this is total nonesense. His comments show him as an ignorant, ruthless & greedy business man who has no connection with ‘Keep Calm’ apart from the poster he bought from Barter Books in 2007 and subsequently set up a whole business based around it to just cash in. Also, he was not the first business to sell Keep Calm products either. I hope common sense prevails and the trademark is overturned.

Sunday , September 25, 2011 07:36 PM

That guy is a joker!

I bought a Keep Calm T shirt off you guys at a shop you had in Brick lane xmas 05 - surely if anyone has claim to it on T shirts and other clothing it’s Yes no maybe?

Monday , September 26, 2011 12:00 AM

What Mark Coop has done is a blatant abuse of trademarking, and I hope you can get this overturned.

There’s a more graphic response on my website linked above.

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