Earlier today, The Ken’s three co-founders received a legal notice warning them against making “false, derogatory & slanderous public statements amounting to defamation”.
The notice was sent to us on behalf of Slowform Pte Ltd, a Singapore-registered company, and Slowform Media Pvt. Ltd, an Indian company that own and publish an online news website called The Morning Context, which in turn publishes stories on “Internet, Business and Chaos.”
The notice accused The Ken’s founders of “making various public statements falsely accusing [Slowform] of having engaged in illegal acts of theft, breach, and misuse of confidential business information belonging to Kenrise Media Pvt. Ltd. which operates the online media platform known as “The Ken”.”
And that The Ken’s co-founders “have made various public insinuations that [Slowform] (as well as its employees) are an unethical organization who are operating their business based on stolen confidential information and resources.”
“Please note that our Clients expect no less than an immediate and absolute compliance of the requisitions set out,” it concluded with.
At this point, a bit of quick context will help.
Kenrise Media Pvt. Ltd., the company that manages and publishes The Ken, was constrained in November 2019 to file a lawsuit against one of its former co-founders, Ashish Mishra, his wife, and other entities and people associated with them in the establishment and running of The Morning Context. We did this after being left with no other option and when we had amassed significant evidence demonstrating the wrongdoings of The Morning Context’s directors, employees and editor in chief.
In a civil suit currently pending before the Commercial Court, Bangalore, The Ken is seeking injunctive and declaratory relief as well as monetary relief in terms of reimbursement and compensation.
The suit resulted from The Ken’s shocking discovery of irrefutable and overwhelming evidence of its confidential information, customer and revenue data, intellectual property and brand value having been secretly copied or used in an unauthorized fashion by the defendants.
Subsequently, The Ken also uncovered a clear pattern, again backed by documentary evidence, whereby the information that was secretly and illegally copied was used to set up and operate a rival entity. These actions were perpetrated not just by Ashish Mishra but also by some former employees of The Ken, who now work for The Morning Context.
The decision to institute legal proceedings was not an easy one, was taken after much deliberation, and when we were left with no other option.
Since October 2016, The Ken has worked hard to build itself as India’s leading source for in-depth business stories, thanks in large part to the support provided by its tens of thousands of passionate subscribers, dozens of talented employees and respected venture and angel investors. That has allowed The Ken to accumulate tremendous goodwill, commercial insights and business knowledge on building, managing and scaling a subscription-based digital media company in India.
That was stolen. It was thus The Ken’s duty to not turn a blind eye against this deliberate and co-ordinated conspiracy and to protect its journalistic model.
On 31 July 2019, Ashish Mishra exited The Ken under terms memorialized in an Exit Agreement. As part of this agreement, Ashish Mishra was paid a large consideration for his shares and was released from certain obligations he had committed to in his capacity as a co-founder and employee of The Ken.
In return Mishra agreed to continue to honour other commitments he had made to the company and its investors, such as confidentiality, return of company materials, non-compete and non-solicitation of employees amongst others.
Upon Ashish Mishra no longer formally being associated with The Ken, the Company discovered numerous instances of unauthorized copying of its confidential information by the defendants. The use, copying and sharing of such information was expressly prohibited under the terms of various employee and shareholder agreements signed by Mishra and others.
Furthermore, to avoid having to comply with the terms of the Exit Agreement that he signed, The Morning Context’s true relationship to Ashish Mishra was deliberately masked.
The Ken believes that its various legal rights and sensitive and personal information has been compromised. As the matter is currently sub-judice, we are unfortunately not able to offer more details at this time.
Coming back to the legal notice we received today, it is pertinent to note that it subverts the sub judice nature of the legal proceedings to make baseless allegations against The Ken, with oblique motives. It would appear that The Morning Context is anxious about the details of the pending litigation becoming known to the public at large and are trying to intimidate The Ken’s founders to prevent them from speaking out about it.
For an organization professed to be engaged in journalism, it is surprising that The Morning Context does not seem to be aware that pending legal proceedings are a matter of public record, and that there is no gag order or bar of any kind against any person, including The Ken’s founders, from discussing the case, the details of which are already in the public domain.
Lastly, it is unfortunate that The Morning Context is threatening to employ criminal proceedings against The Ken. Not only would this amount to a serious misuse and abuse the process of law, but it would also amount to an attempt to subvert the pending proceedings which have been initiated by The Ken.
The Ken has, of course, responded to the notice formally through our legal advisors, Keystone Partners. I will end by briefly quoting from it.
“In view of the foregoing, our Clients categorically reject your Clients baseless demands. Our Clients also do not appreciate and will not be silenced by the mala fide threat of legal action.
Any such attempt by your Clients would be dealt with strictly and with the full force of law.
In these circumstances, our Clients call upon you to forthwith retract the contents of your legal notice.”