It’s War! Battle Erupts Over Poster Phrase ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’

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One of the disputed posters in the bookstore of Stuart Manley.

A fiery legal fight has broken out in the U.K. over the trademark for the slogan “keep calm and carry on” — the helpful advice of the British Government during World War II.

According to The Awl, bookstore owner Stuart Manley, of Alnwick, Northumberland, has been selling versions of the iconic wartime posters since 2001, after he discovered one and made 500 reproductions. But in 2007 ex-TV producer Mark Coop, whose credits include Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, began selling an array of merchandise featuring the phrase and in March this year and succeeded in trademarking it with the European Union (EU).

(PHOTOS: The Last Movie-Poster Artist)

Since then, Coop has warned other businesses to stop selling their slogan-bearing products, demanding eBay refuse access to certain vendors. Coop’s stance has provoked a storm — only made worse by his appearance on the BBC when he defended himself by saying “I have to protect my own interests.”

A petition against the ex-TV man is circulating, while registration firm Trade Mark Direct has filed an application with the EU to invalidate his claim. The case will take four to six months and in the meantime expect anything but calm.

Joe Jackson is a contributor at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @joejackson. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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