Tiananmen Activist... Turned Entrepreneur... Turned User Of Trademark To Stifle Free Speech

from the free-speech-for-me,-but-not-for-thee dept

Paul Alan Levy alerts us to yet another shameful case of someone abusing trademark law to try to silence critics. In this case, it involves the software company Jenzabar, which makes software for colleges and universities, and apparently likes to play up the fact that its founder and CEO, Ling Chai, was one of the "leaders" of the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989, before fleeing to America. Apparently Chai likes to play up that connection for PR purposes, and has been able to get the press to cover Jenzabar with headlines like "From Tiananmen Leader to Netrepreneur" and "From Starting a Revolution to Starting a Company."

However, when the makers of a documentary film about the uprising at Tiananmen Square included some comments and links to articles that were critical of Chai, she went legal. It started with a lawsuit claiming defamation against the film makers, which got quickly tossed out. So, instead, Chai and Jenzabar appear to be trying to use trademark law to bankrupt the filmmakers. They've filed a trademark lawsuit, claiming that the filmmakers' web page, that talks about Chia and Jenzabar, violates its trademarks, noting that the page turns up in search results on Jenzabar and the term is in the metatags.

Pretty much everyone involved recognizes that this is a ridiculous abuse of trademark law to stifle free speech. There is no violation of trademark here. Posting links to stories about Chai and Jenzabar that are critical of her is not a trademark violation in any manner. Using the term in metatags is totally meaningless. It's a shame that someone who apparently once stood as a voice for freedom is now trying to stifle free speech in others via trademark law abuse.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Hmm

    Somehow, I half expect a subsequent detailed report regarding the falsehood of her even being a Tiananmen activist to be forthcoming...

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:03am

    Once this lawsuit fails I'm sure she'll hop into a tank and drive into their house.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:07am

    If trademark laws allow such abuse, then it;s your problem. You elected retards who made those laws; deal with it and stop crying when everyone abuses it. Your whining just proves over and over again that your system is flawed and that no one will do anything about it.

     

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  4.  
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    Brian (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:07am

    Re: Hmm

    Yah or at the very least wasn't part of any initial anything just sort of joined the movement after momentum was behind it already.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:10am

    What I want to know is, if the search engines don't look at meta-tags but the legal world thinks they are the be-all-end-all why does anyone actually use the stupid things anymore?

     

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  6.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:12am

    Re:

    "What I want to know is, if the search engines don't look at meta-tags but the legal world thinks they are the be-all-end-all why does anyone actually use the stupid things anymore?"

    Because judges are clueless.

     

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  7.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:19am

    Re:

    What do you recommend?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re:

    A KING! I will be staging a coup later today to pronounce myself King of the World. Then everyone can bitch about the people in charge because they had no hand in electing me or any of the idiots I appoint.

    Dark Helmet will be my Secretary of Punishment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Gabriel Law, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:32am

    Please differentiate what she is doing as a business person, to what she did on the personal side. She was merely 23 years old when she was elected to lead a group of students against the CCP leadership, not to say a few platoons and tanks.
    I am not here to defend her. I am here to defend the group of so called student leaders. They were students who did not ask to become leaders; history thrusted them onto the stage.
    One person I do know is Wang Dan. In June, he released the following statement to defend his friend. Please take a read before making further comment: http://www.64memo.com/d/Blog/HostsBlog/tabid/229/EntryId/10/Wang-Dan-Defense-for-Chai-Ling-a-letter- to-the-students-in-Hong-Kong-University.aspx

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:42am

    Re:

    "Please differentiate what she is doing as a business person, to what she did on the personal side. "

    I think that was pretty clear. The irony depends upon it, in fact.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:43am

    So you have an migrant to America who does the American thing and learns to behave just like the quintessential American business person ... then you criticize her for being more successful at that than non-immigrants ?!!!

    "Pretty much everyone involved recognizes that this is a ridiculous abuse of trademark law..." If that is true and if the "involved" Americans are half as effective as Miss Chai then there isn't a big problem !.

    "There is no violation of trademark here. Posting links to stories about Chai and Jenzabar that are critical of her is not a trademark violation in any manner."
    But since many Americans can only blog around on the web giving absolute legal interpretations when they are not actually lawyers or even involved in the case (or any other case) and many other Americans listen.... we have a big problem,

     

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  12.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:44am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Dark Helmet will be my Secretary of Punishment."

    Sure I will...also, drink this wine in celebration of m...er, your kinghood...nevermind that funny taste...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:48am

    Re:

    "Please differentiate what she is doing as a business person, to what she did on the personal side."

    I'll make her a deal, we'll differentiate between her personal and business lives if she will. Why don't you take another gander at how she's playing up her role in the activism to the BUSINESS press.

    Class dismissed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Re:

    So you have an migrant to America who does the American thing and learns to behave just like the quintessential American business person ... then you criticize her for being more successful at that than non-immigrants ?!!!

    Huh? The complaint has nothing to do with her immigrant status. Not even sure what you are saying here. And abusing trademark law to shut up your critics is not "behaving like the quintessential American business person." Just the opposite.

    "Pretty much everyone involved recognizes that this is a ridiculous abuse of trademark law..." If that is true and if the "involved" Americans are half as effective as Miss Chai then there isn't a big problem !.

    No, because it's perfectly fine to bankrupt some critics by abusing the law. Is that what you are saying?

    But since many Americans can only blog around on the web giving absolute legal interpretations when they are not actually lawyers or even involved in the case (or any other case) and many other Americans listen.... we have a big problem,

    Yes, that's right. Here in America no one is allowed to give their opinion. If you actually read the article, you'd see quotes from lawyers saying this is a ridiculous case. It's not like I just came up with the concept.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    All hail lord He... I mean, lord stenbucks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:53am

    Re:

    "If trademark laws allow such abuse, then it's your problem. You elected retards who made those laws; deal with it and stop crying when everyone abuses it. Your whining just proves over and over again that your system is flawed and that no one will do anything about it."

    How is keeping the public informed, whining? The more knowledge there is of issues like this, the better chance there is that the public will demand that changes be made.

    So far, the only whining I see going on here is coming from you.

    And, yes, I agree that the system is flawed, but only because all the rich folks in charge keep changing the rules to favor themselves.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:54am

    Re:

    Please differentiate what she is doing as a business person, to what she did on the personal side. She was merely 23 years old when she was elected to lead a group of students against the CCP leadership, not to say a few platoons and tanks.

    All that is fine, but it doesn't change the fact that (a) she used that personal story to her own advantage in business -- which certainly makes it fair game in criticizing her and (b) she's still abusing trademark law to silience critics.

    I am not here to defend her. I am here to defend the group of so called student leaders.

    Wait, did we criticize the "so called student leaders"? No. We did not. So what's the complaint again?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Shh, give it time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 11:26am

    Re: Re:

    "Huh? The complaint has nothing to do with her immigrant status...."
    But it's relevant to our article as you play on the "fleeing to America" and try to suggest some kind of double cross.

    "...Is that what you are saying?"
    Obviously not. I'm saying if the legal situation is as clear as you pretend and if the "involved" Americans were effective they could shut down the abuse quickly. They probably won't because lawyers make more money by dragging things out - it's quite likley they will start a campaign for contributions to pay for lawyers ... how much would you give ?.


    "Here in America no one is allowed to give their opinion" Wrong again ; you can have any opinion you like but it's a good idea to think about the subject before choosing an opinion.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 11:33am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "But it's relevant to our article as you play on the "fleeing to America" and try to suggest some kind of double cross."

    No, by "Fleeing to America" it suggests that she was running away from the crap she had to put up with there.

    "how much would you give ?"

    One, let the start a collection, then ask the question. It makes it less hypothetical and you get a more truthful answer.

    Two, they shouldn't need to. This should be kicked out before it gets that far.

    "you can have any opinion you like but it's a good idea to think about the subject before choosing an opinion."

    Translation: You can have any opinion you want, just as long as it's OK with the person the opinion is about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    stat_insig (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 11:35am

    Re:

    It is impossible to build a perfect governance system. But I would prefer living in US any day rather than in China.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 2:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's some pretty tasty wine you have there. Do I detect a hint of almond?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 4:21pm

    Living the American dream, delicious hypocrisy and all. She adapted quickly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    athe, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 4:22pm

    Re:

    It's hardly whining... More like pointing out the irony.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 9:59pm

    This incident highlights the same pattern that we have seen in software patents. It's just so sad to see a former freedom fighter trample on people who want to air their own opinion.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 8:01am

    Freedom fighter... or just a very aggressive bigot? (lol)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Oct 15th, 2009 @ 8:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That was great wine. Incidentally I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    falungonzo (profile), Oct 15th, 2009 @ 12:13pm

    Jenzabar Nonsense

    Jenzabar is obviously run by truly small and petty people, who will most likely drive their company to the ground one day. Throwing away money to punish indie filmmakers, who's out of print film you don't like, will only lead to more bad publicity. These honorless Jenzabar pipsqueaks should have taken on the globe or pbs - who still stand behind the filmmakers by the way. If they truly had a case, Jenzabar would sue PBS and the globe for slander, but they don't. It's an obvious abuse of the legal system that makes one pray karma exists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Chai Latte (profile), Oct 16th, 2009 @ 7:22am

    free-speech-for-me,-but-not-for-thee dept

    This article hits the nail on the head. Read the complaint. Read the response. The absurdity in the complaint is completely addressed in the response. The court has already decided the defamation issues are absurd. The court will find the same absurdity in the trademark issues as has been pointed out repeatedly here and elsewhere. Will this stop Jenzabar from a next harassment suit? Stay tuned.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Andrew, Oct 16th, 2009 @ 10:08am

    More and more teen entrepreneurs, overnight internet millionaires ,watched a recent documentary featuring this phenomenon, interesting film ''The YES Movie''

    www.theYESmovie.comby Louis Lautman

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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