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"Keep Calm and Carry On" - Trade mark challenge

"Keep Calm and Carry On" - Trade mark challenge

Published: 03.10.11 at 17:11

A number of things can be registered as trade marks, including slogans. However, not everything can be registered and certain requirements must be met. For example, marks must be capable of distinguishing goods or services from those of your competitors. A normal, everyday expression is unlikely to satisfy this requirement. The exception to this is where a mark has been used for a sufficient length of time and can be said to have acquired distinctiveness. For example, the words "have a break..." are hardly distinctive. These are words used in everyday language and were it not for their use over a long period of time would not create an association with the Kit Kat brand.

With this in mind you may be surprised to hear that the wartime phrase 'Keep Calm and Carry On' has been registered as a community trade mark. Mark Coop, the owner of the mark has been using the slogan on his products for just four years. It is hard to come to the conclusion that this mark is capable of distinguishing his goods when others have been using the slogan for years. For example, the owners of Barter Books shop have been selling posters bearing the slogan since 2000. Because of this they are bringing proceedings in an attempt to get the registration overturned.

For more information on what can be registered as a trade mark see our FAQ.

Photograph (some rights reserved) by Steve Rhodes


Please note that this article discusses the legal position in the UK at the time of publication. It provides general information only but is not to be regarded as legal advice. You must take advice from a specialist lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances. Further, you should seek additional legal advice when dealing with parties based in other parts of the world or works originating from other parts of the world as the legal position may vary.


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