The Supposed Lineage from RF and RFI to OIF

This page is part of the historical background relating to "What Is an Osho?", a slick, sannyas-paradigm-shifting policy paper written by Amrito 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 investigates the claimed lineage from RF and RFI to OIF. It is sourced from Osho Friends International. For more legal pages, see OFI or Legal Main Page.

OIF and RF and RFI


Osho International Foundation (OIF) is a Swiss nonprofit corporation, incorporated in 1984 as Rajneesh Foundation Europe (RFE). It later changed its name to Neo-Sannyas International Foundation, and still later in 1990 to Osho International Foundation.

Rajneesh Foundation (RF) was perhaps the oldest foundation created to support Osho's work. It was formed in India as Jivan Jagruti Kendra in 1969, where it published some of Osho's discourses as books and supported Him at the Woodlands in Bombay. This foundation changed its name to Shree Rajneesh Foundation in 1975, and was instrumental in setting up the Rajneesh Ashram in Pune, India. RF (and later other Indian trusts as well) provided Osho and some of the people working with Him with housing and support, and provided space, office equipment and supplies, and other support for the work of Osho's secretaries and their assistants and for people producing books and recordings from Osho's discourses. Though He didn't serve on the board or attend board meetings, Osho was an advisor to RF during all the years it existed. At some time after 1985 RF began to operate as Neo-Sannyas International.

Over the years other foundations, trusts, and legal entities were set up in Pune and RF became one of many entities involved in supporting Osho's work there. Sorting out which entity was doing exactly what in Pune in 1989–90, when Osho changed His name, is extremely difficult. Pramod [Steeg] testified that, based on his knowledge from doing accounting in the early 1990s, at least 10 entities were involved in running the Pune ashram/commune around that time.

RF has no direct connection with OIF, Zürich whatsoever. OIF, Zürich liked to call RF its "predecessor in interest" in the US trademark case because OIF, Zürich claims that RF owned Osho's copyrights and transferred them to RFI, who transferred them to OIF, Zürich. RF never transferred any rights directly to OIF and never even purported to transfer any legal rights except copyrights to RFI. So RF is not a predecessor of OIF for trademark rights in any sense.

Rajneesh Foundation International (RFI) was incorporated in 1975 as Chidvilas Rajneesh Meditation Center in Montclair, New Jersey. It was set up by Ma Anand Sheela and renamed Rajneesh Foundation International in 1978. In 1981 RFI bought land in Oregon to start a US commune, often called the Ranch. RFI and other legal entities provided support for Osho during His stay in the US and handled publishing of His books for a few years. Near the end of the Ranch period, RFI changed its name to Rajneesh Friends International (RFI). This foundation has been dissolved.

RFI was the official founder of OIF (then RFE) in 1984. In 1985 and 1986 RFI purported to transfer all its copyright interests to OIF, Zürich. (For information on what was wrong with RFI's claim to own copyrights.) RFI never transferred any other kinds of legal rights to OIF, and so OIF's only legal connection to RFI is the claim of copyright transfer in 1985 and 1986. In spite of this, OIF called RFI its "predecessor in interest" all through the US trademark case. No trademark interests were ever transferred, and RFI is not OIF's predecessor in interest for trademark rights.

Prior Trademarks

OIF, Zürich claims that RF and RFI owned the trademarks for Rajneesh in the US, Germany, and Australia, and because OIF, Zürich allegedly received copyrights from these two entities, that the trademarks for Rajneesh were somehow mysteriously transferred to OIF as well. (Even a valid copyright transfer would not transfer trademark rights.) OIF, Zürich also claims that RF and RFI owned trademarks for symbols, like a triangle in a circle and the two birds.

Several trademarks were registered for symbols used in marketing specific products produced by the foundations registering the trademarks (mostly books and recordings). These registrations have absolutely nothing to do with OIF's claim to own trademarks for Osho. OIF, Zürich uses the registration of these symbols to argue that Osho knew about and approved of the use of trademarks. While Osho could easily have seen the symbols that appeared on book covers and other products over the years, there's no evidence that He knew they'd been registered as trademarks. Also, since trademarks for symbols couldn't be used to try and control the independent centers, this isn't important. Whether He knew or not, these old, cancelled trademark registrations are simply irrelevant to any case about trademarks of the name Osho.

RF and RFI appear to have also registered some trademarks for the name "Rajneesh" in several countries. OIF claims that those trademarks for Rajneesh were "rebranded" when Osho changed His name and that OIF somehow ended up owning the "rebranded" Osho marks. There are several reasons why this argument is invalid:

1. Registration doesn't prove ownership. Just because a trademark is registered doesn't mean that the person or company registering it actually owns it. To register a trademark the applicant has to swear to own the mark, but doesn't have to prove ownership. If the applicant later wants to try and enforce the trademark claim against someone who questions ownership, the applicant has to prove ownership. The registrations for Rajneesh were never enforced and ownership was never proven.

Because Rajneesh Meditation Centers had been operating around the world since at least the early 1970s, trademark registrations for exclusive rights to Rajneesh made in the late 1970s and 1980s by RF and RFI could not be valid. To be valid, the applicants would have to own the exclusive right to use Rajneesh in connection with the teachings of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and because the centers already had the right to use, and were already using, Rajneesh in connection with those teachings, neither RF nor RFI could have owned exclusive rights to the name.

2. There is no legal support for the theory of "rebranding." In the US trademark case OIF failed to produce any legal support or legal theory to show that the alleged owner of a Rajneesh trademark would automatically become the owner of the Osho trademark when Osho changed His name. Osho did not assign rights in the name Osho to anyone else, so the only way someone else could possibly get rights in His new name would be to use that name exclusively in the marketplace. Since many different people all over the world began using the name Osho for various activities at the same time, at Osho's personal request, no one would ever have been able to gain exclusive ownership rights.

3. There were no valid Rajneesh marks to be "rebranded" in late 1989.OIF has produced document purporting to show registrations for Rajneesh in three countries:

RF
US: for books, periodicals, cards, photos, drawings, paintings, and other paper products.
Filed: April 30, 1979
Registered: November 9, 1982
Cancelled: April 24, 1989
Germany: for the above products.
Published for opposition: April 18, 1980
Registered: March 9, 1989

RFI
US: for the activities of the Rajneesh International Meditation University in Rajneeshpuram.
Filed: September 9, 1985
Registered: January 27, 1987
Cancelled: August 2, 1993
Australia: for books, printed matter, photographs, periodicals.
Registered July 31, 1986

These trademarks, if RF or RFI ever owned them in the first place, were either cancelled or abandoned by the time Osho changed His name in 1989. RF cancelled its alleged US trademark for Rajneesh on April 24, 1989, several months before the name change. So there was no current trademark for books and publications to be "rebranded" in the US in late 1989.

Even if that mark had not been cancelled, RF had abandoned the mark many years before. In 1981 RF allegedly attempted to transfer all its rights in publishing Osho's work to RFI and had stopped marketing the items that were the subject of the trademark application. By 1989 RF had failed to use the mark in the US for at least eight years and had not objected when several other entities published the same kinds of material during that time. This was a clear abandonment of any mark RF might have owned in the US.

The German trademark application for these same products appears to have been made in or before 1980, but wasn't approved until 1989. By 1989 RF had abandoned the mark for at least eight years in Germany as well as in the US, and had failed to object when other entities marketed similar products in Germany (such as the German Rajneesh Times). Any rights RF might have once owned in Germany had been abandoned before the registration was final.

Though RF purported to assign copyrights to RFI it never transferred any trademark rights to RFI. RFI also never applied to register any trademark for Rajneesh for publishing and paper products in the US or Germany, and there is widespread evidence that many people were using Rajneesh in connection with Osho's work in both the US and Germany from 1980–89 for publishing, as well as for other center activities and groups and sessions. Because of this RFI never had the exclusive right to use the name Rajneesh.

RFI's applications to register marks for Rajneesh in the US and Australia were filed very late in the Ranch period. The US application, that applied only to the activities of the meditation university in Rajneeshpuram, was filed on September 9, 1985, less than two months before RFI closed down all its operations in Rajneeshpuram, including the university. By the time the registration was complete in January 1987, the activities of the university had already been abandoned for over a year. By the time of the name change, the university had been closed for four years. This failure to continue the activities of the university and use the mark was an abandonment of the mark. By late 1989, RFI had nothing left to "rebrand," in the US even if rebranding was actually possible.

RFI registration of a mark in Australia for the production of books had also been abandoned by late 1989. By the time the mark was registered in July 31, 1986, RFI had closed down its operations, including its publishing operations, and had purported to transfer its publishing interests to OIF (then RFE). By the time of the name change, the work of publishing material by Osho had been abandoned for four years. RFI had nothing left to "rebrand" in Australia in 1989. Since RFI had not assigned its rights in an Australian trademark to OIF along with the purported copyright transfer, OIF didn't have any rights to "rebrand" in Australia either.

4. No rights in Rajneesh were ever transferred to OIF. Even if under some bizarre legal theory RF or RFI could have had a valid trademark for Rajneesh in late 1989 when Osho changed His name, those rights were never transferred to OIF. OIF claims that RF assigned copyrights to RFI in 1981, and that RFI transferred copyrights to OIF in 1985 and 1986. OIF agrees that no trademark rights were transferred, (Steeg testimony p. 548 ) and that all the alleged transfers of legal rights were completed more than three years before the name change. None of the official trademark registration documents OIF has produced show that the trademark registrations for Rajneesh were ever transferred to anyone else.

So, even if RF or RFI really owned a mark for Rajneesh and the mark was still valid in 1989 that would not in any way support OIF's claim to own trademarks for Osho. Since neither RF nor RFI transferred their rights in these alleged marks at or before the time of the name change.

Since OIF never received any rights in the name Rajneesh from Osho, RF, or RFI, the only way OIF could have had any rights in Rajneesh in 1989 would have been to use Rajneesh exclusively in the marketplace or to have received assignment of trademark rights from everyone who was already using Rajneesh in the marketplace. As many different centers and individuals in the countries where OIF claims trademark ownership (US, EU, Canada, and Australia) were using Rajneesh to market goods and services related to the teachings of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh between the time OIF was founded in 1984 and the name change occurred in 1989, OIF could never have owned exclusive rights to use the name Rajneesh. Many Osho centers are older and used Rajneesh long before OIF was formed. None of them assigned their rights to OIF.