page is part
of the historical background relating to "What Is an
Osho?", a slick, sannyas-paradigm-shifting policy paper written by
and circulated in 1998. A deconstruction of Amrito's paper is presented
on this site, introduced here. A large subset of the background addresses various aspects of OIF's claimed
to control Osho's legacy, particularly regarding the legal muscle of
trademark.This page shows how OIF's "story" justifying their claims and
actions has changed over the years. It is sourced
Friends International. For more legal pages, see OFI or Legal
To own a trademark and the right to register and license that
the trademark claimant must already own the exclusive right to use the
term in question as a trademark. OIF’s story as to why it claimed to
own that exclusive right in 1989 has changed dramatically over the
In its applications for registration before the US Patent and Trademark
Office (USPTO), OIF claimed that Osho had used His name as a trademark
and that Osho was OIF’s “predecessor in interest” for those rights,
which means that Osho had assigned rights to OIF. OIF made these
statements with regard to the following applications:
Gourishankar Meditation; and
April 15, 1999 Office Action Responses from Mary Luria
“The meditation was created by Applicant’s predecessor-in-interest and
identified with the mark with which it has been associated for over 20
years. It is used only by Applicant, its affiliates and licensees or
third parties referring to one of the foregoing. Examiner has found and
cited no third party uses.”
April 15, 1999, and
July 30, 1999 Office Action Responses from Mary Luria.
“Applicant is the owner of all copyrights in the writings and oral
teachings of the mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who adopted the mark
OSHO for his religious, philosophical and scientific teachings,
including those he identified by the mark Dynamic Meditation which is
the subject of this Application.”
On June 7, 2001 Anando [Susan Heffley] signed a declaration saying that
Osho asked for his name, “Bhagwan,” be used as a trademark and that she
was involved in passing this information on. [In fact, no trademark
applications were ever filed for “Bhagwan,” and no trademark
applications were filed at all during Pune II, when Anando was acting
as Osho’s secretary.]
Anando went on to testify that Osho gave directions through her when He
changed His name in 1989, though she characterized Osho’s name change
as “re-branding.” Anando also attached a copy of the Osho Times where
Osho asked all centers to use “Osho” in their names to her declaration.
She was very clear that she was operating on Osho’s instructions
throughout the name change.
Pramod [Klaus Steeg] was deposed on November 21, 2002. Pramod testified
that Osho had asked people to start centers and to use His name for
their activities. [p. 99]
When asked specifically about OIF’s claim that it had received
trademark rights by assignment from Osho, Pramod made it clear that
this was not really the case:
Pramod testified that:
A. The foundation in Zürich was under license for using OSHO’s name to
promote his work.
Q. Who was the licensor?
A. OSHO assigned his name to the foundation.
Q. Which foundation?
A. The original foundation.
Q. The original Indian Foundation?
Q. Is there a writing in which he assigned the name OSHO to the Indian
Q. Is there any writing in which the Indian Foundation licensed Zürich
Foundation to use the name OSHO?
A. No. [p. 114]
Pramod went on to testify that Osho has used His name “Rajneesh” as a
trademark and then in 1989 Osho adopted “Osho” as a “source identifier”
of all His work. Osho Himself gave instructions that all the work
connected to His should use “Osho.” [pp. 147–148]
When pressed, Pramod admitted the following:
Q. There was no written license between OSHO the man and the Foundation
Q. So there was no indication in writing at least that OSHO the man
considered this a trademark that was being license by him in writing?
MS. EDELMAN: Objection to form.
A. I don’t know how to answer that.
Q. You are not aware of any writings that OSHO the man said OSHO was to
be treated as a trademark?
A. No. [pp. 148–149]
When asked why OIF claimed to own exclusive rights to use “Osho,”
A. I mean the mark itself and the name, the name and the mark is based
on an assignment of the name and his image.
Q. Is that assignment in writing?
A. That assignment is in writing.
Q. Is there a specific paper that uses the word OSHO and transfers the
term OSHO apart from the man OSHO?
A. No. [p. 150]
The following year Yogendra [D’Arcy O’Byrne], another board member of
OIF, was deposed and he testified that Osho had personally created
trademarks using His name, such as Osho Zen Tarot, Dynamic Meditation,
and so on. [pp. 22–23] He also testified that Osho “instructed that
everything be changed from Rajneesh to Osho “including all meditations,
all the groups, all the programs in the multiversity, the letterhead,
everything was changed from Rajneesh to Osho.” [p. 27]
But when pressed about Osho’s use of “Osho” as a trademark, Yogendra
said that he didn’t know if Osho asked for “Osho” to be used as a
trademark [though OIF now claims Osho authorized the use as a
Q. And when he directed that the term “Osho: be used in all these ways,
did—did he also direct that there be registrations in any government
entity for the protection of the name as a trademark?
A. I don’t know.
Q. If you wanted to find that answer, who would you consult with?
A. I’m sorry, I don’t know.
Q. And do you know whether Osho, the man, took any steps to limit or
qualify the use of the word “Osho” with regard to, you know,
A. No, I don’t know.
Q. Do you know whether he instructed anyone to license the use of that
A. No, I don’t know.
Q. And if you wanted to investigate whether Osho, the man made any such
assignments, where would you go to find that information?
A. I’m afraid I don’t know.
Q. And you, personally, have never seen any written assignment from
Osho, the man, dealing with any name or mark that contained the word
A. No, I haven’t.
Yogendra was also adamant that there was no organization around Osho’s
“Well, I don’t think anybody with a brain accepts instructions from
Osho or anybody else, so I don’t agree with that for sure… I don’t
think Osho would accept any kind of association with him at all.
Association is to yourself and that’s what he described throughout his
body of work.
“I think what happens is you’re looking for some kind of organization,
and there is no organization. It looks like an organization, but
actually it’s fundamentally a group of individuals and everybody is on
their own…” [pp. 35–36]
Yogendra went on to testify that all the centers changed their names to
Osho when Osho asked them to. He said that centers used Osho’s name
through permission from him. [pp. 37–38]
After OIF’s own board members had admitted that OIF had no assignment
of rights in “Osho” from Osho himself, OIF knew that its original story
that Osho had “re-branded” his work from Rajneesh to Osho would cause
them to lose the case. If Osho used His name as a trademark and then
“re-branded,” but never assigned anything to OIF, then OIF clearly
didn’t own the trademarks. OIF would have had no rights to use “Osho”
superior to all the others who have used it since 1989.
When a Motion for Summary Judgment was brought by Osho Friends, partly
on these grounds, OIF completely changed its story and swore that it
had never told any other version. Its new story was that OIF had never
claimed to have received an assignment of Osho’s name. It had received
an assignment of copyrights and used those copyrights to gain trademark
rights. OIF said:
“Osho never owned, or professed to own any OSHO marks, and therefore
Osho never could have legally conveyed any rights in the Osho marks to
OIF or anyone else.”
By the time Pramod was ready to testify in the trial of the US case,
OIF had worked out the details of its new story. Pramod testified that
Osho had never controlled the use of His name, contradicting his own
earlier testimony, as well as the testimony of Anando and Yogenedra.
Pramod claimed that OIF, not Osho, had directed the “re-branding” from
Rajneesh to Osho and that not a single center received permission from
Osho to use the new name “Osho.” Pramod claimed that OIF, through
Global Connections had given permission. All of this testimony
contradicted the earlier testimony of Anando, Pramod, and Yogendra.
Pramod also claimed that Osho had authorized an organization to control
all His work since the 1970s, contradicting Yogendra’s earlier
testimony that there was no such organization. (See Osho and OIF for
more details on Pramod’s testimony.)
In the end the US Trademark Board never reached the question of OIF’s
ownership of “Osho” trademarks, since it found that there was no “Osho”
trademark to begin with, just a generic term to describe Osho’s work
and the movement around it. If this issue is ever litigated again
somewhere else, it’s good to realize that OIF second version of the
story isn’t any better than the first. If OIF only got rights in “Osho”
by using the copyrights, while hundreds of centers and individuals were
also using “Osho” for their own goods and services, OIF could never own
exclusive rights in “Osho.”