Tories stifle widow through IP laws, twirl moustaches, cackle

The Conservative party picks an ill-advisded fight against a sympathetic anti-asbetos crusader

Robert Keyserlingk was a lifelong Tory who died horribly in 2009 from mesothelioma, a cancer typically caused by asbestos exposure. Keyserlingk had regular contact with asbestos in his youth while working summer jobs on Canadian naval ships.

Before his death, he crusaded against Canada’s government-supported asbestos industry, and his wife Michaela has carried on the cause since. Every month, she pays $300 to run this banner ad on websites, which links to her own anti-asbestos website:

The Conservative Party is now threatening to sue her for trademark infringement.

Her use of their logo was, of course, unauthorized. It might be argued that she was using it as a form of political speech, to ironically juxtapose the party’s proud symbol with an aspect of their policy many find shameful. Or it might be argued that she was willfully confusing the public into believing her message was endorsed by the Conservatives (a misconception quickly corrected when readers click through to find a scathing critique of the Tories).

Either way, one thing is for sure: Conservative party executive director Dan Hilton’s knee-jerk response of firing off a cease-and-desist email with cuddly threats of “further action” if Mrs. Keyserlingk fails to “govern herself accordingly” and nix the logo, cast him and his party in a particularly fiendish light, and ensured widespread attention to her cause.

Legacy organizations are used to fiercely protecting their intellectual property against any possible infringement. But aggressively litigious tactics developed by Disney to safeguard against bootleg mouse ear manufacturers won’t work in every modern, digital context.

Like, say, if you’re not a private company but a ruling political party, and the alleged IP infringer isn’t a rival business but a recently bereaved widow with a sympathetic story and a legitimate cause.

Jesse Brown is the host of’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown