Public Knowledge Project (PKP) Predatory Business Practices

Public Knowledge Project (PKP) Predatory Business Practices

This blog is in response to defamatory blog posts by Public Knowledge Project managing director Brian Owen, and associate director Juan Pablo Alperin, with the intent to smear, harass, and intimidate for competing with PKP Services.

Since it’s launch in 2013, has been subject to multiple smear campaigns by Canadian Public Knowledge Project.

Public Knowledge Project also utilizes it’s forum to refer any inquiry about to these defamatory blog posts1 for further dissemination of their smear campaigns.

The implication of these predatory tactics by Canadian Public Knowledge Project goes far beyond; the intent is to to deter any company wishing to compete with PKP Services and making sure PKP Services holds total monopoly over OJS commercial services.

Up until 2013, PKP Publishing Services 2 held a monopoly over managed hosting and support for OJS. PKP took advantage of this monopoly by charging an exorbitant rate for its services. For example, a publisher with 9 titles and a 15-GB disk-space requirement, would have to pay $2700 per title to PKP Publishing Services for journal hosting.

As 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 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’s business through attacks on social media and on other forums. 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 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

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

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

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

This is especially egregious as 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. had to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to deal with PKP’s frivolous legal threats.

PKP’s Inaccurate Trademark Infringement Claims

Fact: United State Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) rejected PKP’s application for Trademark in United States.3

Fact: In April 2018, offered PKP the domain name in return for a non disparagement agreement to stop any further harassment by PKP and their supporters. PKP refused the offer.

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.4

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.5

In 2014, 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’s request. PKP had a chance to object, but decided not to do so!

Therefore, Paxter LLC, the parent company of, is the owner of a registration for a design mark incorporating the OPEN JOURNAL SYSTEMS term (Ser. No. 86492962) 6 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

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

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 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.

PKP Inaccurate Confusion Claims

Fact: is not the only entity using the name Open Journal Systems to provide OJS services.

There are other companies using the name Open Journal Systems to provide OJS services, including OpenJournalSystems Dot cl, and OpenJournalSystemsHosting Dot com. However, PKP has never claimed the “confusion card” with these entities, just Since 2013, our company has provided excellent service to over 500 clients and none have ever expressed confusion about PKP’s services versus those of In almost every instance, our company has signed a contract identifying PAXTER LLC as our parent company, with our address in Phoenix, AZ, and the name and signature of our company president on the contract. We have service provider agreements with major US universities, including the University of Hawaii, NYU, UNLV, MSU Press, Case Western University, FSU, Findlay University, Dominican University, Northwestern University, to just name a few. We also have signed agreements with major international universities and institutions, including universities in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Germany, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Malaysia, Namibia, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, UK, and more. No one has ever claimed that they have mistaken with PKP.

PKP's Attacks Against Other Entities and Lack of Professionalism

Fact: PKP and their associates have been targeting The Chronicle of Higher Education, Elsevier, bepress, Jeffrey Beall, Edwin Mellen Press, etc.

In October 2017, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article, discussing a new Open Publishing Platform “Janeway” and the frustration of Open Journal Systems users with the complexity of the software.7 Right after the article was published, PKP employees went on a Twitter tirade with multiple post claiming The Chronicle of Higher Education article was “biased.”

In August 2017, Elsevier acquired bepress, a leading service provider used by academic institutions to showcase their research. Right after the announcement, PKP published news (and posted Tweet), trying to convince bepress users to move over to PKP services.8 Elsevier itself has been on the receiving end of multiple defamatory tweets from PKP associates and not even once has Elsevier or their associates posted a tweet against PKP!

In March 2015, PKP associates launched a defamatory website against American librarian Jeffrey Beall who is well known for his investigations of predatory open access publishing, a term he coined.9 Furthermore, there have been 100s of defamatory tweets against Jeffrey Beall by PKP associates posted on Twitter and never once has Jeffrey Beall retaliated against PKP.

In 2010, Dale Askey, a PKP associate and a librarian at McMaster University, wrote a blog post about Edwin Mellen Press on his personal Web site, Bibliobrary, referring to the publisher as “dubious” and saying its books were often works of “second-class scholarship.” In June 2012, Edwin Mellen Press filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Dale Askey and McMaster University for defamation. PKP’s Canadian library associates started an online publicity campaign against Edwin Mellen Press, calling the defamation lawsuit an assault on academic freedom and free speech. Overwhelmed by this negative publicity campaign, Edwin Mellen Press withdrew their lawsuit in order to avoid any further damage to their business.10

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.” 11

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

John Willinsky, the director of PKP, claims to be the champion for Open Access. In his recent op-ed titled “Working the Law Against Its Intent,”12 John Willinsky has criticized Elsevier and the American Chemical Society for using legal threats against Sci-Hub database for copyright violation. But as presented by the evidence in this blog, John Willinsky has often used frivolous legal threats to bully and intimidate Mr. Willinsky has also used his influence and clout to instigate his Canadian supporters to engage in defamation and to interfere with’s business.

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

The true goal of Open Access philosophy is to unite, not to divide. We believe John Willinsky and PKP’s actions are against the spirit of the Open Access philosophy.


  2. PKP Publishing Services – Available at:
  3. USPTO rejected PKP’s application for Trademark of Open Journal Systems in United States – Available at:
  4. USPTO trademark basic facts- Available at:
  5. USPTO rejected PKP’s application for Trademark of Open Journal Systems in United States – Available at:
  6. USPTO granted trademark for Open Journal Systems to – Available at:
  7. New Open Publishing Platform “Janeway – Available at:
  8. Rethinking bepress – Available at:
  9. Open Access Publishing Beall Predatory Blogger – Available at:
  10. Librarians Rally Behind Blogger Sued by Publisher Over Critical Comments – Available at:
  11. Software Freedom Law Center Foss-Primer – Available at:
  12. Working the Law Against Its Intent – Available at:

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