[Editor’s Note in original article] From 2013 the public welfare industry has begun to resort to the law to settle intellectual property rights (IPR) disputes. The IPR dispute between the Helin community art promotion project in Shanghai and the Vanke public welfare foundation has attracted lots of attention in the civil society sphere. With the dust having not yet settled on this dispute, the public welfare industry again faces claims of foundations plagiarizing grassroots organizations’ projects.The following article is by Huang Huan, the founder of Beijing NGO ‘I Seek’ (爱稀客), which promotes awareness and treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension (PH).
Recently, I noted with surprise the “Blue Lips Concern fund” on a certain foundation’s website (Translator’s note: PH sufferers refer to themselves as “blue lips” due to a side effect of oxygen deficiency from the disease). Looking closely, I realised that it was the same as my own organization’s idea. At first I was happy because this was an organization I set up in 2007 and have worked hard at ever since. However, at the same time, they launched an activity where people paint their lips blue to show solidarity with PH sufferers. This was almost identical to a previous activity conducted by my organization. I realised then that this was blatant plagiarism and needed to be made public.
Beijing I Seek is a specialist public welfare organization focused on PH. In 2012 I Seek received funding from the British Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) and began a public welfare information campaign. We appeared on both local and national TV and in various print publications, helping spread awareness of the illness. In total, we have cooperated with more than 2000 patients, 50 hospitals and 100 volunteers. At the same time, we began cooperating with various foundations to push forward a series of projects. I Seek invited these foundations and media groups to cooperate in good faith. Furthermore, we selflessly shared our public advocacy, policy analysis and specialist consultancy experience. However, contrary to this spirit, our ideas and projects have been stolen. This foundation holds both PH sufferers and donors in contempt. We have worked hard to improve the quality of life for PH sufferers, and to attain the trust of patients and volunteers. We therefore cannot allow our reputation and hard work to be plagiarized in this way.
This situation leaves us with a deep sense of regret. But based on conscience we have no choice but to speak out, even though we may not be successful. We want more people to join the “concern for blue lips movement” but we also want greater cooperation and respect from all actors. Finally, our sincere thanks to everyone who has shown concern for I Seek!