The Autonomy of Osho Centers
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 right
to control Osho's legacy, particularly regarding the legal muscle of
copyright and trademark. This page explores
in detail the historical autonomy of Osho's centers. It is sourced from Osho
Friends International. For more legal pages, see OFI or Legal
OIF and Osho centers
The Osho centers have always been legally independent. Osho asked
people to set up centers and never exercised any kind of legal control
over them. Osho personally asked the people around Him to use His name
with their work in the names of their centers and in the names of
therapy and bodywork techniques and processes, music, art, and all
kinds of creative work. Osho never exercised any legal control over any
of the work done in His name. Since the centers were set up with the
understanding that they were legally independent, no one could possibly
take control of the centers without the knowledge and consent of the
center leaders and participants.
Once centers and individuals began to use Osho’s then name, Rajneesh,
in the marketplace, they had a legal right to continue to use that name
and no one else could take legal control of the name as a monopoly. A
trademark is an exclusive right to use a word, phrase, symbol, or image
in marketing. It signals to the public that the trademark owner is the
single source of all the goods and services offered under that mark.
(See What is a trademark?)
In the work around Osho there has never been only one source for goods
and services since people began to open centers in the late 1960s or
early 1970s. Osho was a source of discourses that were turned into
products such as books, tapes, and videos, and later CDs and DVDs
through the additional work of many people. The centers and individuals
were also sources of goods and services, such as meditation sessions
and classes, groups, therapies, bodywork techniques, other individual
sessions, celebration events, meditation events, music events, art and
other cultural events, and products such as magazines, newspapers,
books, T-shirts, photographs, mugs, statues, and so on.
In this situation no one, not even Osho, could have owned a trademark
for the name Rajneesh to sell goods and services related to Osho and
His work. Osho had given permission to hundreds, maybe thousands, of
people to use His name in connection with their work, which was only
spiritually (not legally) connected to His work. In effect, Osho had
put His name in the public domain for free use. Once it was in the
public domain it couldn’t be taken out again.
While Osho’s name was being used in connection with goods and services
created by a variety of centers and individuals it could never serve as
an indicator to the public that all the goods and services came from
one single source, since they did not. The goods and services came from
many independent sources, so . . . no trademark was possible.
A False Start
When it originally applied to register trademarks for Osho International
Foundation (OIF, Zürich)claimed that it had received an
assignment of rights in Osho’s name from Osho Himself, and that’s why
it owned the trademark in Osho around the world. This claim turned out
to be false, as OIF, Zürich now admits. As a result, OIF, Zürich found
itself in the middle of the US trademark case without a theory as to
why it supposedly owned exclusive rights to use Osho in the
marketplace, and OIF, Zürich had to come up with a new theory in a
Part of the new theory was the argument that because Rajneesh
Foundation (RF) in India and Rajneesh Foundation International (RFI) in
the US both registered very limited trademarks for “Rajneesh” in the
late 1970s and 1980s, those foundation had, as a result, legally
controlled all the Osho centers. (See OIF and
RF and RFI for what’s
wrong with this theory.) There is no evidence that either RF, India or
RFI, US ever owned a trademark for Rajneesh. (Registration does not
prove ownership.) The registrations for trademarks of Rajneesh were
very narrow and specific and did not include center activities.
The only evidence OIF, Zürich came up with in the US trademark case
that either of these foundations ever tried to enforce trademarks
against the centers in any way was a very suspicious document (Steeg
[Pramod] Exh. 13). This document (which wasn’t authenticated in the US
case) claims to be instructions from RFI, US to centers on how to use a
trademark for Rajneesh during the Ranch period.
There were never any applications by RF, India or RFI, US in the US for
a Rajneesh trademark to be used with the names of Osho’s meditations.
In spite of this, Steeg (Exh. 13) purports to tell centers that they
have to use a trademark
symbol next to Rajneesh when using that name before the names of Osho’s
meditations. For example, this document claims that sannyasins used
“Rajneesh Dynamic Meditation” or “Rajneesh Kundalini Meditation,” and
so on, with trademark symbols next to Rajneesh during the Ranch period.
In reality, sannyasins didn’t use Rajneesh in front of the names of
Osho’s meditation techniques at that time. They referred to Dynamic
meditation, Kundalini meditation, and so on.
The idea of using Osho’s name in front of the names of Osho’s
meditation techniques is one created by OIF, Zürich after Osho left the
body in the hope OIF, Zürich can claim to own and control Osho’s
meditation techniques. (See What
is OIF and what does it claim to own?
for a discussion of this.) Considering all of this, the authenticity of
this document has to be in serious doubt.
It’s notable that even this very questionable document doesn’t claim
that RFI, US controlled the activities of the centers or that RFI, US
could control the use of Rajneesh in center names. The really important
point is that even if RFI, US had claimed that it had the power to
control Osho centers, that wouldn’t help OIF, Zürich now. RFI, US’s
trademark application in the US in no way proves that RFI, US did own a
trademark for Rajneesh.
RFI, USA started out as Chidvilas Rajneesh Meditation Center. It was
one of several Osho meditation centers in the US in the 1970s.
Chidvilas had no more right to use Rajneesh than any other center did.
RFI, US claims that it received an assignment of Osho’s copyrights in
1981, but, even if that were true, it would not give RFI, US any
exclusive right to use Rajneesh for all the goods and services produced
by all the other centers or the right to legally control the other
So whatever RFI, US might have claimed, it never had exclusive rights
to use Rajneesh to market goods and services related to Osho’s
teachings, and it never applied for or registered a trademark that
would apply to the goods and services of other meditation centers. RFI,
US also never assigned any rights in registered trademarks to anyone
else, including OIF, Zürich. RFI, US has been legally dissolved, so any
trademark rights it might have owned are irrelevant now.
Despite all the evidence that both of Osho’s names, Rajneesh and Osho,
were always used by many different people and legal entities to market
goods and services related to Osho’s work, OIF, Zürich keeps insisting
that someone must have owned a trademark sometime. If no one ever owned
a trademark, then OIF, Zürich is out of luck and can’t claim to own
exclusive rights now. This motivates OIF, Zürich to try and reinvent
Centers Controlled by Rajneesh Foundation
The story OIF, Zürich came up with to justify its claim to own
trademarks is that beginning in Pune I the Indian trust RF, India
licensed and controlled all the centers. There is absolutely no
evidence that RF, India ever owned exclusive rights to use Rajneesh in
any geographical area at that time, even India. There is also no
evidence of any legally binding agreements between RF, India and any
center. In other words, this story is completely unsupported; this is
an attempt to rewrite history by characterizing Osho’s gifts of name
certificates to centers as legally binding trademark licenses between
RF, India and centers.
As usual, OIF, Zürich has this argument backward. A person giving a
license (the licensor) has to own legal rights before it issues a
license. It doesn’t get rights because it issues a license. If the
licensor doesn’t own the rights before the license is issued, the
license is meaningless and is not legally enforceable. OIF, Zürich
never gives any explanation as to how RF, India was supposed to have
obtained ownership of exclusive rights to use the name Rajneesh
everywhere in the world when the centers were already using it. OIF,
Zürich just glosses over this point in the apparent hope no one will
think to ask this question.
The answer is that there is no way that RF, India could have had those
rights. Osho never assigned any ownership rights in His name to RF,
India and RF, India wasn’t the only legal entity producing goods and
services under the name Rajneesh in every country in the world. There’s
no way that RF, India could have had the power to grant licenses to
centers or individuals in the Pune I era.
Also, licenses are not legally binding if the person receiving the
license (the licensee) isn’t told that it is a license and informed of
the conditions of the license. OIF, Zürich claims the name certificates
Osho gave the centers were “secret” licenses. That kind of so-called
license, however, would be legally meaningless if the centers didn’t
agree at the time to enter into licenses. The name certificates
contained no legal restriction or conditions and did not form a license
Name certificates for centers from Osho were a personal gift from Him
to the centers. Sometimes He gave them out personally, and sometime His
secretaries gave them out. In every case they were a gift from Him,
even if He was too ill at the time to handle the matter Himself.
Finally, there is no evidence that RF, India ever transferred any
rights in any licenses to either RFI, US or OIF, Zürich. This means
that even if RF, India miraculously acquired some rights in relation to
the centers, those rights have no connection to OIF, Zürich and can’t
support OIF, Zürich’s claim to own exclusive rights in Osho now. OIF,
Zürich has no claim to rights acquired by RF, India and RFI, US unless
they were assigned to OIF, Zürich in some way. Pramod [Steeg] has
admitted that neither RF, India nor RFI, US assigned trademark rights
to OIF, Zürich. (Steeg [Pramod] testimony p. 548) [Steeg (Pramod)
sometimes lost track of his script and changed the story. At one point
he testified that it was Rajneeshdham that controlled the centers in
Pune II, and that RF, India had never licensed the centers. (Steeg
testimony 585-87) At least he got the last part right.
Centers Controlled by Rajneesh Foundation International
OIF, Zürich also claims that during the Ranch period RFI, US legally
controlled the centers. Since RF, India never assigned any trademark
rights to RFI, US, this argument makes no sense at all. If RF, India
already controlled the centers, as OIF, Zürich claims, how would RFI,
US get control of them without an assignment from RF, India? Again,
this is one of those pesky questions OIF, Zürich tries to avoid or
If RFI, US supposedly formed new licenses with the centers, how did
RFI, US get legal control of the name Rajneesh that OIF, Zürich claims
RF, India already owned? The truth is that there’s no way for OIF,
Zürich to get around the fact that it would be impossible for both RF,
India and RFI, US to own trademark rights in Rajneesh and have legally
controlled the centers if RF, India did not assign rights to RFI, US.
If RF, India had assigned those rights, the assignment would appear in
the official trademark registration file, but no assignment is recorded
there. (Steeg Exh. 6 & 7)
If RF, India didn’t control the centers and assign the rights to RFI,
US, there’s no way that RFI, US could have taken legal control of Osho
centers that had been operating independently for many years before the
commune at the Ranch was set up in 1982. Without an assignment of
rights from Osho, from RF, India, or from all the other meditation
centers, RFI, US had no more right to use Rajneesh than any other
meditation center in the world. Also, like RF, India, RFI, US never
assigned any rights in trademark licenses with centers to OIF, Zürich
before 1989, so any connection RFI, US might have had with centers is
completely irrelevant to OIF, Zürich’s claim to own rights in Osho now.
Despite all of these holes in its theory, OIF, Zürich clings
desperately to the argument that someone owned a trademark for Rajneesh
and that Rajneesh was “rebranded” to Osho. (See OIF, Zürich and RF,
India and RFI, US [link] to find out what’s wrong with that argument.)
OIF, Zürich then claims that the ownership of the new Osho trademark
was transferred to OIF, Zürich in some mysterious, inexplicable way.
(OIF, Zürich never received a legal assignment.)
This argument is indefensible. First, the idea of taking ownership and
control of a living person’s name without his permission through some
theory of “rebranding” is unsupported by any legal theory. Why would
any “foundation” own Osho’s new name without His permission or an
assignment from Him? Why would anyone be able to snatch ownership away
from Osho without His legal consent? The answer is that they wouldn’t.
Even if someone owned a viable trademark for Rajneesh at the time of
the name change (which they didn’t) that would not automatically give
the trademark holder ownership of the completely different name “Osho”
without an assignment of rights from Osho himself. Osho made no such
assignment, though He could have if He had wanted to. Instead, He asked
all centers around the world to begin using Osho at the same time—a
sure guarantee that there could never be a valid trademark.
Ownership rights in trademarks also don’t move by osmosis. They have to
be actively assigned, openly transferred. If RF, India and/or RFI, US
owned some trademark rights in Rajneesh they would have had to transfer
those rights to OIF, Zürich before the time of the name change if OIF,
Zürich was to “rebrand,” and RF, India and RFI, US did not did not make
that assignment. OIF, Zürich admits they did not. Alternatively, the
centers that had been using Rajneesh since long before OIF, Zürich was
even formed would have had to transfer rights in Rajneesh to OIF,
Zürich before the name change, and they did not. There is not one scrap
of evidence that any center assigned its rights in the use of Rajneesh
to OIF, Zürich, let alone that all the centers did. So there can be no
conceivable argument that OIF, Zürich owned trademark rights in
Rajneesh at the time Osho changed His name. If there is some theory
that would allow an entity to snatch ownership of Osho’s new name away
from Him because it owned Rajneesh, that entity wouldn’t be OIF,
Zürich, which had no special rights in Rajneesh before the name change
If OIF, Zürich is claiming that RF, India and RFI, US owned active
trademarks for Rajneesh at the time of the name change, then OIF,
Zürich is still out of luck. According to OIF, Zürich’s evidence, RF,
India never transferred anything to OIF, Zürich and the transfers from
RFI, US purported to be transfers of copyrights, not trademarks. The
last transfer from RFI, US was in 1986. (Steeg [Pramod] testimony pp.
545–548 [link]) This means that even if RF, India or RFI, US did
miraculously “rebrand” Rajneesh into a trademark for Osho, those rights
were never transferred to OIF, Zürich, since nothing at all was
transferred to OIF, Zürich after 1986. In 1989, when OIF, Zürich claims
it licensed all the Osho centers, it didn’t own any special rights to
use Osho that it could legally license to others.
This also means that by the time Steeg testified in 2007, neither RF,
India nor RFI, US had transferred any rights in trademark licenses to
OIF, Zürich, and OIF, Zürich still had no legal rights to license to
centers, because OIF, Zürich had not been using Osho exclusively in the
marketplace. Many others had used the name at the same time for their
own independent goods and services.
(Secret) Oral Licenses
Never a group to be deterred by the facts, OIF, Zürich boldly argues
that it gained legal control of all the centers in the world through
licensing the use of Osho to them beginning in 1989. OIF, Zürich claims
that the centers only changed their names from Rajneesh to Osho because
they received permission to do so from Global Connections (GC) in Pune,
which was operating as an agent for some (unidentified) foundation
(without telling the centers that GC was an agent of a foundation or
that it was issuing licenses).
OIF, Zürich now claims that no center received permission to use Osho
directly from Osho himself. In OIF, Zürich’s revised version of
reality, only GC gave permission and this permission constituted a
legally binding oral license to use the new trademark Osho. By
accepting this oral license and changing their names, OIF, Zürich
claims, all the centers in the world agreed to submit to the legal
control of OIF, Zürich.
There are several legal problems with this argument, of course. There’s
the ongoing problem outlined above that no one, least of all OIF,
Zürich, had a valid claim to own Rajneesh at the time of the name
change. There are other questions too. What entity was GC allegedly
working for in 1989? If it was supposed to be working for RF in India,
how did those rights get transferred to OIF, Zürich without an
assignment? If GC was supposedly working for OIF, Zürich in 1989, where
did OIF, Zürich get the legal rights for GC to license to centers? The
answer is that without assignments from Osho, RF, India, RFI, US, or
any centers for rights in the use of Rajneesh or Osho —and there were
no such assignments—OIF, Zürich could not have owned any special rights
in Osho. This means OIF, Zürich could not have entered into legally
enforceable trademark licenses with centers, since it had no superior
rights to license. Even if some other legal entity, like RF, India,
entered into license agreements with centers, no rights were
transferred to OIF, Zürich by 2007, by which time Osho was a generic
In reality, OIF, Zürich only came up with this story of oral licenses
after its false claim that Osho assigned rights to OIF, Zürich was
exposed. At that point OIF, Zürich had to come up with an argument as
to why OIF, Zürich owned exclusive rights to use Osho when so many Osho
centers had been using it since 1989. Also, OIF, Zürich had not told
the US trademark office that the Osho centers were using Osho in
connection to their independent goods and services. To register a
trademark by withholding relevant information is fraud under US
In order to claim exclusive rights to use Osho and avoid a finding of
fraud in its application process, OIF, Zürich had to come up with a
theory of why OIF, Zürich owned the right to legally control the
activities of the centers from 1989 to the present. The oral license
story wasn’t a very good one, but it was apparently the best OIF,
Zürich could come up with in the circumstances.
OIF, Zürich is now stuck with that story, and its claim to own
trademarks and control Osho centers around the world now depends on
this story that GC formed legally enforceable oral license with all
centers worldwide in 1989 and that OIF, Zürich somehow (inexplicably)
got those legal rights from GC (or whomever GC was representing) in
This theory can never be proven since it was actually Osho who asked
centers to change their names to Osho, and OIF, Zürich has admitted
that it was Osho who directed the name change. This means any “license”
was from Osho personally, and OIF, Zürich has admitted that Osho never
used the name Osho as a trademark.
Centers were never informed in 1989 that OIF, Zürich claimed GC’s
alleged request to use Osho instead of Rajneesh in connection with
center work was an oral license to use a trademark. This means that
such a request, even if it had actually existed, could never be a
binding legal license under any circumstances. A contract can only be
binding if both parties are informed of the terms and agree to them.
There must be a meeting of the minds. Finally, since OIF, Zürich did
not own any rights superior to the rights of any other centers at the
time Osho changed His name, OIF, Zürich had no legal interest to
license to the centers at that time.
Letters of Understanding
Osho changed His name in late 1989 and His people around the world
started using the name to produce goods and services related to His
teachings at that time. Because Osho didn’t assign any rights in Osho
to anyone, no one had a legal right to use it that was superior to
anyone else’s. The first person or entity to use Osho in any
geographical area (E.g., US, India, Canada, Germany) might have had
some claim to special rights. At this point, though, it is virtually
impossible for anyone to prove that they used Osho before everyone
else. Also, because so many people and entities have used Osho between
1989 and the present, any special claim is almost certainly abandoned
by now. “Osho” has been used as a generic term to describe goods and
services related to Osho’s work since 1989. (Osho Here and Now
Festival, Osho Tantra group, Osho Meditation classes, and so on.)
In about 1997–98 OIF, Zürich began to realize that it had a legal
problem if it wanted to claim a trademark for “Osho” when all the
centers were using it without any permission from OIF, Zürich. This
would mean that even if OIF, Zürich had special rights to use Osho in
1989, those rights had been abandoned by allowing the centers to use
Osho for their own goods and services for eight to nine years.
OIF, Zürich decided to get centers to sign copyright and trademark
agreements to show that the centers recognized OIF, Zürich’s ownership
of copyrights and trademarks. In 1999 OIF, Zürich sent a
copyright/trademark licensing agreement to Dhanyam [Rosansky] at Viha
to sign. (Rosansky Exh. 3 [link to scan]) Dhanyam was cautious about
this, so he asked Niren to come to a meeting of the Viha editorial
board to discuss it. Niren advised Viha to sign the agreement, assuring
the board that the agreement couldn’t be enforced because there were
problems with OIF, Zürich’s claims to own copyrights. The board was
uneasy with signing the agreement and very concerned with the news that
OIF, Zürich might not legitimately own the copyrights it claimed. The
Viha board recommended asking OIF, Zürich to answer some questions.
Dhanyam relayed these questions, but OIF, Zürich never responded and
never contacted Viha about the proposed agreement again.
Meanwhile, GC had come up with a document called a letter of
understanding that GC sent to all the centers in the world already
using Osho in their names. Though Rosansky Exh. 3 shows that OIF,
Zürich knew what a real trademark license looked like, OIF, Zürich had
GC in Pune send out something very different. These letters of
understanding did not appear to be licenses of any kind. They seemed to
be informal letters asking centers to support the idea of protecting
Osho’s work. [link to scan of LOU] Though OIF, Zürich attempted put a
large stack of documents from GC into evidence in the US trademark
case, including voluminous correspondence with US centers, not one
document contained a disclosure that:
GC was acting as an agent of OIF, Zürich,
OIF, Zürich was claiming to own exclusive rights to use Osho in
the country where the center was located,
GC and OIF, Zürich were claiming that the letter of
understanding was a legally binding trademark license, or
GC and OIF, Zürich argue that signing a legally binding trademark
agreement would mean agreeing to give OIF, Zürich legal and financial
control of the center. (See What is a Trademark? [link] for what OIF,
Zürich claims a license means.)
In the US trademark case OIF, Zürich revealed that it now claims to
legally control all the centers around the world that have signed
letters of understanding. OIF, Zürich claims it will bring legal
actions against and ban people from centers that have not signed such a
letter and continue to call themselves Osho centers. For example, the
center in Boulder has refused to sigh the LOU and OIF, Zürich has
already sent it threatening legal letters. Pramod [Steeg] testified:
At any time since 1989 has OIF, Zürich taken any legal action
against a center in the United States to force it to stop using the
MS. DURHAM: Objection. Vague.
A. I don’t know if it is a legal action, but we sent in one case I know
a cease and desist letter requesting a center not to use any longer the
term Osho in their center name.
Q. What was the name of the center to whom the letter was sent:
A. In this case the Osho Boulder Meditation Center.
Q. Other than sending the cease and desist letter to boulder have you
taken other action against Osho Boulder?
A. We have not taken any further legal action waiting a decision — we
made a decision to wait with this until the outcome of this case.
Q. Why was a cease and desist letter sent to Osho Center in Boulder?
A. They didn’t want to sign the letter of understanding
Q. Do you allow members of Osho Boulder to visit the Osho Meditation
Center Resort in Pune?
A. No. Not since this action, they are not welcome at the resort in
Pune at the moment.
In a recent center meeting in the EU, Vatayana (Hoess) revealed to the
center leaders that OIF, Zürich and GC claim that the letters
of understanding signed by some centers in Europe were license
agreements. According to OIF, Zürich, any center that has signed a
letter of understanding is now under the legal and financial control of
OIF, Zürich, through its agent GC. (See What
is a trademark? for quotes
from OIF, Zürich.) OIF, Zürich believes it can tell those centers
exactly how to operate and how to present Osho. OIF, Zürich can decide
what product or service the center can provide. For example, OIF,
Zürich claims the power to forbid all celebrations on the celebration
days set up by Osho. They can forbid a center to celebrate Osho’s
birthday or the day He left the body. If the center goes ahead with
these celebrations, OIF, Zürich can revoke their trademark license and
force them to close or to stop operating under the name Osho.
There are several reasons why the letters of understanding aren’t
enforceable trademark licenses. Trademark licenses, like all legal
contracts, must contain certain provisions. The letters of
No grant of rights. They don’t say, for example, that OIF, Zürich is
granting a trademark license to the center to use the name
Osho in the center name in a specified location. (To be legally
enforceable a contract must give something the other party doesn’t
No quality control provisions. The letter doesn’t say how OIF, Zürich
proposes to control the use of this license, including what kind of
control OIF, Zürich is intending to exercise over the centers. The
centers don’t agree to any control over the center activities that have
originated with the centers or have been put into the public domain by
Osho (meditation techniques), so OIF, Zürich has no legal basis for
No territory. The letters don’t say what country or area, such as the
US, Australia, or EU, where OIF, Zürich claims to own a
trademark relevant to the license and where the center is licensed to
use the name Osho.
No discussion of the goods or services covered by the trademark. OIF,
Zürich doesn’t limit how the centers can use Osho or specify what
services that actually originate with OIF, Zürich are being licensed to
No right to terminate. To be enforceable, the parties need to be able
to terminate a license agreement, particularly if there is a breach of
the license, but these letters have no termination provisions.
No assignment to OIF, Zürich. All the centers that signed these letters
were already using Osho (which OIF, Zürich has admitted). This means
that the centers already owned rights to use the name. The letters
don’t transfer the rights belonging to the centers to OIF, Zürich, so
the centers still own those rights. OIF, Zürich has never owned them.
The reason why these provisions are missing from the letters of
understanding is pretty clear. OIF, Zürich was afraid that if it told
the centers clearly that it was intending to license and control the
centers, the centers would never have signed the letters. If OIF,
Zürich had sent the actual trademark license it sent to Viha to the
others centers, many questions about OIF, Zürich’s rights to claim a
trademark would have been raised. So, instead, OIF, Zürich tried to
trick the centers into signing away their rights without realizing what
they were doing.
This kind of game playing is exactly why the law requires clear
provisions in legal agreements. See Your
options for a letter
clarifying the letter of understanding you can send to OIF, Zürich.
This will prevent OIF, Zürich from claiming that your center has agreed
to be spiritually, legally, and financially controlled by OIF, Zürich.
The Truth About the
Centers and the Letters of Understanding
OIF, Zürich claims it can control all aspects of running a center, but
is that really true? Fortunately, it isn’t true at all. As usual, OIF,
Zürich is trying to do things backwards. In order for the letters of
understanding to be legally binding trademark licenses at the time they
were signed (1998 and after) OIF, Zürich would have had to have already
owned exclusive rights to use Osho in 1998. OIF, Zürich couldn’t obtain
rights by signing license, as it keeps trying to claim.
As we’ve already seen, in 1989 OIF, Zürich had no special rights to
Rajneesh or to the new name Osho. OIF, Zürich began using Osho in the
marketplace at the same time as all the other centers around the world.
OIF, Zürich had no more rights to Osho than any other center. Since
OIF, Zürich had no legal right to license in 1989, it couldn’t possibly
have licensed the centers at that time.
By 1998, when centers innocently began signing the letters of
understanding, OIF, Zürich had even less to license than it did in
1989. By 1998 many centers and individuals had been independently using
Osho for their own goods and services in the marketplace for nine
years. By that point, the sources for the goods and services related to
Osho’s teachings were so numerous that “Osho” could never identify a
single source to the public. (Osho was generic.) By 1998 it was already
impossible for Osho to serve as a trademark. If OIF, Zürich had any
claim to first use of Osho in any country, that claim had been
abandoned during the nine-year period when the centers and individuals
used Osho freely.
Nothing to License
It’s worth noting that every time OIF, Zürich claims a license exists
there is never a legal right to be licensed. For example, I can lease
you my neighbor’s car, but the lease will be a meaningless piece of
paper. I don’t own my neighbor’s car, so I can’t lease it to you, no
matter how many documents we sign. If I don’t own exclusive rights to
use a name in the marketplace, I can’t give any rights to you. OIF,
Zürich keeps trying to claim that it has licensed what it never had:
the exclusive right to use Osho.
In the oral argument in the US trademark case the members of the Board
asked OIF, Zürich’s counsel to point to a single piece of evidence in
the record that showed that OIF, Zürich owned the trademarks. She was
unable to do that.
OIF, Zürich registered trademarks in a few countries by falsely
claiming to own exclusive rights to the marks. OIF, Zürich has
intellectual property lawyers and knows perfectly well that registering
a trademark by claiming to own it does not mean you really own it.
Nonetheless, OIF, Zürich has been trying to convince centers that a
registration, instead of real ownership of the trademark, gives OIF,
Zürich the power to license the trademark.
That is certainly not the law in the US. If a trademark claimant wants
to enforce a trademark, the claimant has to prove it actually owns the
exclusive rights. (There’s an exception in the US for marks registered
for more than five years.) You need to check with an independent,
objective legal counsel to tell you the law in your country. (See
wrong with OIF, Zürich’s claim to own trademarks? for other
legal arguments you can use.) In most cases even a registration that is
several years old can be cancelled if it was made through false
representations or if the word “Osho” is generic in your country.