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Oct. 13, 2009

Faulty Trademark Suit Pits Leader of Tiananmen Square Protest Against Makers of Documentary Film About Historic Event 

Claims of Trademark Infringement Are Frivolous, Public Citizen Says 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Twenty years after the famous Tiananmen Square protests in China, one of the leaders of the student movement is wrongly trying to use trademark law to sue the makers of a documentary film about the 1989 event, according to a motion served today by Public Citizen. The motion will be filed in Massachusetts superior court in Boston.

Ling Chai now runs Jenzabar, Inc., which makes software for colleges and universities. She is unhappy with how she is depicted in the film “The Gate of Heavenly Peace” and is claiming that pages about her company on the filmmakers’ Web site have infringed her company’s trademark.

Specifically, Jenzabar claims that Long Bow, which makes award-winning documentary films about China, can not use Jenzabar’s name as part of the meta tags on pages about Jenzabar. That assertion, however, is preposterous, said Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen attorney who is defending Long Bow, along with local counsel T. Christopher Donnelly and Adam B. Ziegler of the Boston law firm Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, LLP.

“The filmmakers’ use of Jenzabar’s name as a keyword meta tag on their informational web pages about Jenzabar is far beyond the concern of trademark law,” Levy said. “This is a frivolous lawsuit meant to censor the examination of a historic event.”

Jenzabar’s claim that use of meta tags caused one of Long Bow’s Web pages to appear among the first 10 Google search results are disproved by statements from Google that it stopped using keyword meta tags in its search algorithms many years ago, Public Citizen’s motion says. Additionally, there is no likelihood that people who come across the tsquare.tv site will confuse it as officially representing Jenzabar.

Even if the meta tags affected Google’s search rankings, the First Amendment protects the right to make the truthful statement that a particular Web page contains information about Jenzabar. It is disappointing that an education software company does not appreciate the value of free speech, Levy said.

The tsquare.tv site makes reference to Jenzabar’s lawsuit and quotes Chai criticizing the film and attacking the filmmakers as “pro-communist.” The information on the filmmakers’ site includes references to Jenzabar’s many legal disputes, controversial business practices and longtime strategy of exploiting Chai’s unique story in its marketing efforts. No reasonable consumer would read this information and be confused about whether Jenzabar created or sponsored Long Bow’s site.

Public Citizen asks the court to enter a judgment in favor of Long Bow.
 
READ the brief.

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