12 gems from a response to a TOI legal notice

24 May 2013

Picture

There’s something decidedly execrable when a media company thinks it is well within its rights to use its might to silence another media company or media professional with a fire-and-brimstone legal threat.

Even more so, when a 175-year-old media giant like The Times of India group picks on a 22-year-old girl.

In April, lawyers representing Times Publishing House, a Times subsidiary, tried to scare Aparajita Lath (in picture), a student of the national institute of juridical sciences (NUJS), with civil and criminal action for writing a 669-word blog post in February 2013 capturing the Times group’s long-drawn trademark tussle with the Financial Times of London.

The Times lawyers probably expected a cowering apology.

What they got instead was a rocket from Shamnad Basheer, the founder of SpicyIP.com and a chaired professor of IP law at the NUJS, who also recommended an IQ test for the Times lawyer.

Usually, lawyers go all weak in the knees when taken on by a Goliath. But Basheer’s 5-page response to the Times‘ 7-page notice “most unapologetically” speaks truth to power with candour. It’s an object lesson to media companies which try to silence critics, and an even bigger lesson to law firms.

Here are 12 standout sentences from Basheer’s response:

1) “We strongly object to the vile language and the highly aggressive tone used in the notice. We can respond in kind, but we choose to be a bit more civil with you.”

2) “You choose to issue this highly malevolent letter, hoping to intimidate us into a meek apology. Unfortunately, while the meek may inherit the earth, they are bound to be shown no favour by corporate powerhouses such as your client.”

3) “So, let’s cut to the chase and explore your alleged grievances articulated rather flatulently in over seven pages of a highly intemperate legal notice.

4) “We could send you stacks of material originating from your client that cause the same [shock] effect on us, particularly the numerous page 3 images that continue to assault us on an almost daily basis.

5) “As any law student in a decent law school will inform you, in order to constitute the legal wrong of defamation, you need to prove that the statements made by us necessarily lowered the reputation of your client in the eyes of a “reasonable” public.

6) “We assumed that as a qualified lawyer, you are well aware of the distinction between an opinion and a fact…. If the law has changed in this regard, please to intimate us, so that we may notify our readers of this sea change, which has gone unnoticed, without so much as a whisper.

7) “… we are prepared to issue a clarification. However, we will do so only upon your sending us a more polite letter seeking this clarification. ‘Please” and “thank you” are words that have unfortunately become relics in this fast pace world of ours, and even more so with fast paced lawyers such as yourselves.

8) “We fail to understand how any reasonable reader would have arrived at such a fanciful conclusion. And those that do are in dire need of a serious IQ check. We believe there are several robust online tests floating around these days, should you wish to take one of them.

9) “Apparently you’ve not sent Mint a legal notice as yet. We can only guess that you’re averse to picking people your own size…. We’re guessing that you’ve shied away from sending a legal notice to Harish Salve, widely acknowledged as a leading legal luminary and heavyweight [quoted in the Mint article and the blogger's story].

10)  “We are particularly amused at your allegation that a 22-year-old law student caused “irreparable injury” and “loss of reputation” to a powerful media house by highlighting a highly technical trademark dispute of public importance and reflecting on the protracted nature of the litigation. Continue to amuse us, and we may begin to reciprocate.

11) “It is surprising how you’ve twisted simple sentences . We belong to the land of yoga, no doubt, but this is simply too much of a stretch. Clearly, neither your client nor Financial Times Limited are ‘hapless’ when both have been spending crores of rupees in fighting this protracted legal battle for more than 20-odd years!

12) “If you continue with this character assassination and threaten us any further, we will be constrained to initiate legal proceedings against you. This will needlessly fill the coffer of two sets of lawyers but perhaps that’s what you really want. In the sincere hope that your client is smarter than you, we remain, most unapologetically yours.”

For the record, advocate Ashish Verma signed the Times legal notice for the Delhi-based K. Datta & Associates.

Also for the record, a similar notice was served on Paranjoy Guha Thakurta for writing the Mint article, although Mint, which is owned by Hindustan Times, has been spared the agony.

Photograph: courtesy Spicy IP

Also readThrice-bitten, will FT find real love again?

Financial Times takes on The Times of India

Now The Times of India takes on Financial Times

***

The Hindu threatens to sue The Indian Express

Bloomberg threatens to sue CNBC-TV18

Shekhar Gupta threatens to sue Vinod Mehta, et al

Editors’ Guild backs Times Now in libel case

***

External reading: Was Times right to take on blogger?

30 Responses to “12 gems from a response to a TOI legal notice”

  1. Sudhir K Singh Says:

    A well administered kick on the ass of my former employer

  2. anilgb1 Says:

    what a reply

    i endorse it

    anil

  3. Narendra Says:

    Well written…sometimes you have to write like this to prevent yourself from being bullied!

  4. Animesh purohit Says:

    You go girl! Aparajita Lath and basheer a very soothing read :)

  5. Sas3 Says:

    that was uplifting….. and inspiring…..

  6. swatchhanda Says:

    TOI needs a 1000 such letters! Aparajita Lath & Shamnad Basheer, thank you so much. _/\_

  7. rajat Says:

    Well done:) And funny as hell


  8. Oh, I just love it. Kudos to Mr. Shamnad Basheer. I wish I could seen the TOI lawyer’s face as he read this reply. Will Times Now invite them for a face off? Would be a good show. Right up Times Now’s alley. Arnab Goswami are you listening?

  9. Murali K Murthy Says:

    Truly a well drafted letter. No body should attempt to bully the other for securing personal aggrandisement. I heartily congratulate the lawyer and the legal firm on taking such a stand.

  10. Melanie Says:

    Nothing left to say but brilliant!

  11. Lalitha.S Says:

    Hilarious response, befitting..


  12. […] Sans Serif reports about a legal battle between Indian media giant Times Publishing House and Aparajita Lath, a student of the National Institute of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) for her 669-word blog post in February 2013 capturing the Times group’s trademark tussle with the Financial Times of London. […]


  13. […] Sans Serif reports about a legal battle between Indian media giant Times Publishing House and Aparajita Lath, a student of the National Institute of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) for her 669-word blog post in February 2013 capturing the Times group’s trademark tussle with the Financial Times of London. […]

  14. Vinutha Mallya Says:

    Entertaining as it is, I am utterly surprised at the language of the response. Befitting as the act of responding is, and certainly there is no argument over the absurdity of TOI’s notice, Mr Basheer’s response goes into an overdrive. It is condescending and itself goes against the grain of what is expected of a measured rebuttal. Whatever the language of the notice that TOI sent, one expects more grace and dignity, than a litany of expressions like “you ought to”, or “any decent law school”, “continue to amuse us,” “we belong to the land of Yoga” (?) etc.

  15. sh Says:

    Super-cool response that is Prof.!
    Although id say its a bit unfair to pick on the attorneys personally, for everyone knows that what they say is what the client wants them to. The lawyers wud care not so much to receive an apology or whatever from the author, but ultimately its the Times group who’d want to highlight it on their first page headline.

  16. Jerome Says:

    Why read/ watch the ToI and their media products in the first place? Make choices…

  17. Ravi Menon Says:

    Grow up, TPH. Times should know that it really can’t fool all the people all the time. Hope they learn from this episode of ‘edutainment’, haha…

  18. omni Says:

    To be fair, we should be presented with the TOI notice too. Was this response by Prof Basheer warranted?


  19. Words too powerful to belittle swords here.. Lawyers at TOI may consider retiring and go to kashi(/Macca/Jerusalem/Sabarmati” ) for a final holi voyage of their lives.

  20. vadakkus Says:

    Nothing more satisfying than a self-important, arrogant corporate house being shown its place.

  21. paralegal mistress Says:

    beyond brilliant. they need a thousand more like. lets see how they reply to it.


  22. I don’t see anything wrong with the notice sent by ToI, other than a lot of grammatical mistakes and extremely complicated legalese. Mr. Basheer’s response seems rather silly, especially coming from a legal expert. More than than the language in the original ToI notice being ‘vile’, it is Mr. Basheer’s language that seems over the top and with the likely intention of playing to the gallery. Or maybe that’s how lawyers do small talk.


  23. TOI is one of the worst media houses with low ethical and moral standards. They should be exposed. Time to pay them in their own coin

    Good lawyer to TOI. Keep it up

  24. tina wellington Says:

    SHAME A SLAP ON FACE TO TOI ! THEY DESERVE IT… NO TRUE ETHICS OF JOURNALISM REFLECTS ON ITS MATERIAL EVER. NEWS IT ALWAYS TWISTED, MISQUOTED. ITS SIMPLY RUN ON POLITICAL VIEWS AND SENSATIONALIZE WRONG HYPE…

    SHAME !!

  25. fosNgo Says:

    Claiming Trade Mark violation to shut down blog posts is an old and invalid trick. It works well when it works. Here is a similar case: Lawyers acting for Global Indian Foundation of Singapore and India, whose clients are “owners of the trademarks ‘Global Indian Foundation’, ‘Global Indian International School’, and ‘GIIS’ (The Trade Marks)” sent a similar legal shot to a school PTA parents forum, where it was deemed to be an invalid threat. Such threats are included in the “Chilling Effects” Database. The C&D notice is published by Chilling Effects: http://www.chillingeffects.org/protest/notice.cgi?NoticeID=33101

    It seems that Google did not block the blog despite similar Trade Mark complaints. But IT Act 66A was used to arrest company employees

    http://janamejayan.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/one-more-case-of-misuse-of-section-66-a-of-it-act/

    for an adverse report in DNA India: http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_indian-expats-fight-fee-hike-through-blogs_1166668

    Finally, the blog http://forabettergiis.blogspot.com/ has reported about the defamation case against itself ! Such would not have happened without the internet.

  26. Abhishek Says:

    Hats off

  27. Ram Naidu Says:

    Hi Shamnad,

    Enjoyed reading your rebuttal and putting the TOI people in their place.

    I have long stopped reading the TOI and now justly so.

    Ram Naidu


  28. What a smashing reply! Mr. Shamnad Basheer, you are a true hero! Hope you teach these monopolists a lesson. The Times group’s so-called reputation is known to all who witnessed the emergency regime of Indira Gandhi. Their journalists and editors “grovelled” when asked to “bend”. Hope Aparajitha one day grows to become another Indira Gandhi and makes these Times people grovel!


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