Public Knowledge Project (PKP) Predatory Business Practices

Public Knowledge Project (PKP) Predatory Business Practices

This blog is in response to defamatory blog post by Public Knowledge Project managing director Brian Owen with the intent to smear, harass, and intimidate OpenJournalSystems.com, a minority owned U.S. Corporation based in Phoenix, Arizona, for competing with PKP Services. The false and fraudulent statements in Brian Owens’ blog contains outright lies in the form of false or misleading facts to harm OpenJournalSystems.com’s reputation and cause financial damage.

Public Knowledge Project also utilizes its forum to further harass and bully our company by referring any inquiries about OpenJournalSystems.com to Brian Owens’ defamatory blog post and since PKP has blocked OpenJournalSystems.com from participating in their forum, Public Knowledge Project can, therefore, push their false narrative to the public without any rebuttal. Furthermore, many of our clients’ who responded to these posts on PKP’s forum in defense of OpenJournalSystems.com, their posts have also been deleted by PKP so that readers can only hear PKP’s outright lies from Brian Owens’ defamatory blog post.

Since it’s launch in 2013, OpenJournalSystems.com has been the subject of malicious smear campaigns by Canadian Public Knowledge Project. The implication of these predatory tactics by Canadian Public Knowledge Project goes far beyond OpenJournalSystems.com; the intent is to deter any company wishing to compete with PKP Services and making sure PKP Services 1 holds a total monopoly over OJS commercial services.

Up until 2013, PKP Publishing Services held a monopoly over managed hosting and support for OJS. PKP took advantage of this monopoly by charging an exorbitant rate for its services. As OpenJournalSystems.com started gaining market share bit by bit, PKP began launching vicious attacks against our company. Over the past four years, PKP and its representatives have engaged in a pattern of conduct that appears to have one sole purpose – eliminate OpenJournalSystems.com as a competitor in the OJS platform. This has been a concerted effort on the part of PKP, its representatives, and its affiliated companies and vendors to engage in defamation and to interfere with OpenJournalSystems.com’s business through attacks on social media and on other forums. OpenJournalSystems.com has been subjected to continuous harassment and cyberbullying from PKP. Since 2013, PKP has blocked our access to its forum to try and maintain a monopoly on OJS services; created multiple websites directed at our CEO for the purpose of intimidation and defamation; and directed hundreds of baseless, defamatory social media attacks against OpenJournalSystems.com in an attempt to damage our reputation. Full details are available in ourcease and desist demand letter.

PKP Use of Legal Threats to Bully and Intimidate OpenJournalSystems.com


Fact: Since 2014, PKP has engaged in overly aggressive litigious behavior in order to bully and intimidate OpenJournalSystems.com.

In April 2014, PKP hired a trademark law firm to threaten OpenJournalSystems.com with a lawsuit if our company didn’t hand over the domain OpenJournalSystems.com and our social media accounts, etc.

In January 2017, PKP hired another law firm, threatening OpenJournalSystems.com with a baseless lawsuit over copyright violation for the use of the OJS user guide.

This is especially egregious as OpenJournalSystems.com spends thousands of dollars in the development of new, high-quality themes and plugins for OJS (which are copyright) but astonishingly, PKP’s forum allows others who’ve pirated our theme codes to create posts with links to these illegally obtained themes.

PKP’s False Trademark Infringement Claims


Fact: United State Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) rejected PKP’s application for Trademark in United States.2

In the United States, to be able to trademark a name, you need to show that the mark you want to register is trademarkable; the use of a name does not by itself qualify for trademark ownership. The applicant must illustrate (1) the name is not generic, and (2) the name is not merely descriptive.3

Therefore, the use of a name does not automatically entitle the owner of a product to claim a trademark unless those 2 conditions are met. For instance, if you sell spring bottled water and your product is simply called “water,” you won’t be able to obtain trademark for your product.

In 2014, PKP applied to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to register Open Journal Systems as a trademark; however, PKP’s application for trademark of Open Journal Systems was rejected by USPTO as the term Open Journal Systems is generic.4

In 2014, OpenJournalSystems.com applied to USPTO for a logo that incorporates the words “Open Journal Systems” in order to protect itself against legal threats by PKP. USPTO granted OpenJournalSystems.com’s request. PKP had a chance to object, but decided not to do so!

Therefore, Paxter LLC, the parent company of OpenJournalSystems.com, is the owner of a registration for a design mark incorporating the OPEN JOURNAL SYSTEMS term (Ser. No. 86492962) 5 and is, in fact, the only entity at this point in time with any arguable claim to federal rights in any trademark including the OPEN JOURNAL SYSTEMS term. In contrast, the Public Knowledge Program connected to Simon Fraser University (“SFU-PKP”) has NO federally registered trademark rights in United States – and arguably no common-law trademark rights – in the OPEN JOURNAL SYSTEMS term.

PKP Use of Targeted Harassment and Smear Campaigns to Bully OpenJournalSystems.com


Fact: Since 2014, there has been over 200 instances of social media attacks by PKP and their associates against OpenJournalSystems.com.

Following the USPTO ruling and PKP’s failure to secure a trademark for Open Journal Systems in United States, PKP started multiple smear campaigns against OpenJournalSystems.com. We were, slandered, ridiculed, provoked, and accused.

The Pattern of the Smear Campaigns by PKP

All the campaigns so far have had a similar pattern: each starts with a smear blog, followed by PKP posting the smear blog on social media and asking their associates to retweet and provide support for it. This is followed by coordinated attacks on Twitter and Facebook by PKP’s Canadian associates, and it concludes with PKP thanking their associates for their support following the attack.

These perpetrators are not ordinary folks making simple criticisms. They are the agents of PKP, who are taking advantage of the differences in legal jurisdictions to carry out their attacks and benefit PKP by spreading a false and derogatory narrative to damage our company.

The Profile of Attackers

We have compiled a profile of these attackers who are acting as agents for PKP and the common denominator for these perpetrators are:

  1. almost all are Canadians,
  2. they all work for Canadian Universities,
  3. they all have high number of followers on Twitter,
  4. they’re all close associates of John Willinsky and PKP.

The Ring Leaders

  1. Jacqueline Appleby: librarian at University of Toronto, Canada (see cease and desist letter)
  2. Karen-Majer Kline: ex-communication officer at PKP, Canada (see cease and desist letter)
  3. Nick Ruest: archivist at York University, Canada
  4. Dale Askey: librarian at McMaster University, Canada (previously sued by Edwin Mellen Press for defamation)
  5. George Siemens: educator at Athabasca University, Canada
  6. D’Arcy Norman: manager technology integration at University of Alberta, Canada
  7. Dave Cormier: student relations management at University of Prince Edward Island, Canada
  8. Sara Allain: archivist at University of Toronto, Canada
  9. Amy Buckland: archivist at University of Guelph, Canada

The people listed above all have a high number of Twitter followers. So, once they create their defamatory posts, multiple retweets from their followers follow, causing maximum exposure. For instance, a post by a close associate of PKP, George Siemens, stated: “@OpenJournalSys are a shady and unethical operation.” Please note that George Siemens is a close friend of John Willisnky, the director of PKP. Also note that George Siemens has never conducted any business dealings with our company before or offered any proof to back up these absurd statements. As well, Dale Askey has been sued previously by Edwin Mellen Press for defamation, so these attacks seem to be their usual tactics.

Final Notes


According to Software Freedom Law Center: “Way down in the roots of Software Freedom are the same ideas from which the belief in free speech derives. Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) projects are not often built by people who value censorship, and there is a strong belief within most FOSS communities that projects should thrive on their merits, and not use legal weapons to silence critics and competitors.” 6

By using legal threats against their competitor, PKP has demonstrated that their business practice it is not aligned with the spirit of FOSS!

PKP acted with deliberate premeditation with the intent to eliminate OpenJournalSystems.com as a competitor in the OJS platform. The legal threats, targeted harassment, and defamation by PKP and their associates against OpenJournalSystems.com are to ensure that PKP Publishing Services retain its monopoly over OJS services and its ability to continue with its exorbitant hosting charges.

References


  1. PKP Publishing Services – Available at: https://pkpservices.sfu.ca/content/journal-hosting.
  2. USPTO rejected PKP’s application for Trademark of Open Journal Systems in United States – Available at: http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=86318990&caseType=SERIAL_NO&searchType=statusSearch.
  3. USPTO trademark basic facts- Available at: https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/BasicFacts.pdf.
  4. USPTO rejected PKP’s application for Trademark of Open Journal Systems in United States – Available at: http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=86318990&caseType=SERIAL_NO&searchType=statusSearch.
  5. USPTO granted trademark for Open Journal Systems to OpenJournalSystems.com – Available at: http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=86492962&caseType=SERIAL_NO&searchType=statusSearch
  6. Software Freedom Law Center Foss-Primer – Available at: https://www.scribd.com/document/2088576/Foss-Primer.

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