The Connection Between
Osho and OIF
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 deals with the (lack of) legal
connection between Osho and OIF. It is sourced from Osho
Friends International. For more legal pages, see OFI or Legal
Osho and OIF
Osho had no legal connection with OIF, Zürich whatsoever. Osho never
transferred any legal rights to OIF. He didn’t even give them a name
certificate. RFI's role as founder of OIF did not transfer any legal
rights from RFI to OIF.
At the end of the Ranch period RFI, transferred certain
copyrights it claimed to own to OIF. Those alleged transfers happened
in 1985 and 1986, and RFI had no legal connection with OIF after 1986.
At some point after 1985–86 OIF began to claim to own Osho's
copyrights. The evidence shows that Osho still owned His own copyrights
at that point and continued to direct publishing operations.
No one—Osho, RF, RFI—ever transferred any trademark rights to OIF. So
whatever trademark rights any of them might conceivably have owned have
nothing to do with OIF's claim to own all trademarks for Osho today.
Yet OIF's claim to ownership isn't valid unless there was some
assignment from someone—an assignment that never happened.
The First Misrepresentation
After Osho left the body OIF claimed that Osho had used both Rajneesh
and Osho as trademarks and had assigned the rights in those trademarks
to OIF. OIF told this story to the US Patent and Trademark Office
(USPTO) in order to register marks in the US and may have told the same
story to trademark registration offices in other countries.
There are a few problems with OIF's theory. First, Osho never used His
name as a trademark. He asked people to use His name without making
conditions or exercising legal control over them. He repeatedly
emphasized that the only connection between people and Him was a
personal and spiritual one. There was never a legal connection of any
kind. The second problem with OIF's theory is that Osho never assigned
any rights in any of His names to OIF.
The documents OIF was relying on in making these claims were the
documents OIF claims transferred copyrights to it. In the first
two documents, allegedly signed by Osho, He grants a non-exclusive
license to use His name and image as a part of a conditional publishing
license. In other words, Osho allegedly gave RF and RFI permission to
use His name and image in marketing His books and recordings. This was
in no way an assignment of all trademark rights in His name.
Declarant hereby authorizes Rajneesh Foundation to use his
portraits, photographs, sketches, statues and other visual images, as
well as his name, and he consents to such use by the Foundation on any
article, such as books, publications, tapes and any other object or
product related to his person.
Purported 1978 publishing license.
Part way through the US trademark case OIF realized that its assignment
theory wasn't going to work. So OIF changed its story, admitting that
Osho had never used His name as a trademark and claiming OIF had never
said Osho assigned the rights to it. OIF's new theory was that RF and
RFI had somehow gained ownership of the trademark rights for Rajneesh,
and that those rights somehow were transferred to OIF. (OIF never says
how that supposedly happened, since neither RF nor RFI ever transferred
any trademark rights to OIF.)
OIF's new argument was that Osho did not use His name as a trademark,
but RF, RFI, and OIF did use it as a trademark. So, OIF claimed, those
foundations, not Osho, controlled Osho's teachings and all the Osho
centers while Osho was still alive. There is no evidence to support
this theory, particularly since neither RF nor RFI assigned any
trademark rights to OIF or to each other. Whatever those entities may
have owned is irrelevant to OIF's claim to own exclusive rights to use
Pramod (Steeg) testified that Osho was not involved with the centers in
the last years of His life, but that Global Connections, acting on
behalf of some (unspecified) foundation, licensed the centers by giving
them name certificates:
center names and the center licenses were given out by Global
Connections. So that was the office. There was no need to give them to
Osho, he was not involved in this kind of work.
In reality, GC did not send out certificates until sometime after Osho
left the body. Up to that time they were sent out by Osho's secretaries
Hasya and Neelam on behalf of Osho personally.
Though the Osho Times printed a personal request from Osho to all His
centers around the world to use Osho in connection with their centers,
Did any of the Osho Meditation Centers currently operating in the
United States receive permission from Osho personally to operate as an
Osho Meditation Center?
Steeg testimony p. 518
In fact, Pramod claims that when Osho gave center names to people and
asked them to start centers, Osho was actually acting legally on behalf
of some (again unspecified) foundation (though it sounds like RF):
People would meet Osho in public meetings, which were called
darshan. The people from the Foundation were present, like in this case
Garimo or the president of the Foundation, Laxmi, and Osho would give
center names to individual people who would talk to him at those
MS. DURHAM: Objection. Lack of foundation. No personal knowledge.
Q. Did the Rajneesh Foundation or the Rajneesh Foundation International
object to the fact that Osho was personally giving permission to people
who wished to operate as Rajneesh Meditation Centers?
A. There was no reason to object. The Foundation's goals and intentions
to operate and run the Meditation Centers were the same, and there was
no contradiction to Osho giving center named to individual people.
Q. What person or entity, if any, did have control over Rajneesh
MS. DURHAM: Objection.
A. Any relation between the centers were with the Foundation. So if
Foundation sent the center guidelines or provided the centers with
guidelines with the products of the Foundation to be sold and offered.
Centers had licensing agreements with the Foundation for publications
and newsletters and materials that they sold. So the relationship with
centers was with the Foundations and not with Osho.
Steeg testimony pp. 457–59
Steeg then went on to claim that the centers believed that Osho was
directing the centers, because the foundations involved lied to them
for their own good:
In its communications with Meditation Centers did the Foundations
that you identified ever suggest that Osho had control over the
operations of the Mediation Centers?
Q. Why did the Foundations indicated in its communications with
Meditation Centers that Osho had control over the operation of
Meditation Centers if that was not the case?
MS. DURHAM: Objection. Lack of foundation. No personal knowledge.
A. People had very personal connections to Osho, and they wrote letters
to Osho personally expressing this connection. They wanted personal
involvement and they wanted that Osho knew about the activities. So
letters by the Foundations were always using the language suggesting a
very close connection between the person and the activities of the
Foundation. Even if that was not the case, Osho didn't make these
Steeg testimony p, 460
This story, concocted by OIF, is not only contrary to facts and
extremely insulting and disrespectful to Osho, but it is full of legal
holes as well. Osho never assigned any of His names to anyone else. He
didn't assign them to RF, to RFI, or to OIF. This idea of assignment
was just an invention by OIF. (OIF now admits the assignment claim
Since Osho didn't assign His name to RF or RFI, those foundations had
no more claim to own exclusive rights to use it than any other Osho
center in the world. The evidence is clear that Osho personally
requested people to use His name when doing work connected to His
teachings over a period of many years. During that time He never
assigned any rights in His name to anyone. The result was that His
name, then Rajneesh, became generic for all the products and services
marketed in connection with the name. For example, centers presented
groups, meditation sessions, published material, and ran businesses
like discos and restaurants. Individuals developed and ran groups,
classes, and bodywork sessions, all using the name Rajneesh. The name
Rajneesh indicated that the goods or services being offered were in
some way inspired by or connected to the spiritual teachings of Bhagwan
Shree Rajneesh. After Osho changed His name, Osho was used in the same
way at Osho personal request as reported in the Osho Times.
Because both "Rajneesh" and "Osho" were always used by many different
people who were separately and independently developing goods and
services, no one has ever owned exclusive rights to use either Rajneesh
or Osho as a trademark. OIF has never offered any theory why RF or RFI
would have owned exclusive rights in Rajneesh. Pramod just claims they
did, though he has no personal knowledge about this at all, since he
wasn't in Pune I or on the Ranch and wasn't a board member, officer, or
trustee of RF or RFI.
There is really no way that RF or RFI could actually have obtained
exclusive ownership of the rights to use Rajneesh, but even it they
had, they never transferred those rights to OIF or to each other. Both
RF and RFI have been legally dissolved, and cannot transfer rights now.
To support OIF's claim to own the exclusive right to use Osho through
ownership of the rights to use Rajneesh, the owner of Rajneesh would
have had to transfer those rights to OIF before or soon after the name
change in late 1989. Pramod [Steeg] testified in 2007 that this never
OIF's only alternative is to prove that it gained control of Rajneesh
through assignments from those who were already using it. OIF was
formed in 1984, more than a decade after people began opening Rajneesh
Meditation Centers around the world. The only way OIF could have had
exclusive ownership rights in Rajneesh was if all the centers,
foundations, ashrams, and individuals using it in the marketplace
assigned their rights to OIF. In fact, no one ever assigned rights in
Rajneesh to OIF, and OIF had no more right to use Rajneesh than any
other of Osho's meditation centers.
Another important point is that legally enforceable licensing
agreements with centers can't be formed by RF or RFI sneakily
pretending to be Osho. To create a legally enforceable licensing
agreement with Osho centers around the world RF, RFI, and OIF would
have to meet certain criteria. At the very least they would have to:
own the exclusive legal right to use
Rajneesh/Osho in the country where the center was located. If the
foundations didn't somehow already own exclusive legal rights in that
country they would have no legal rights to license to the center.
Clearly inform the center that a license was being
formed and what the conditions of the license were so that the center
could give the level of consent to the agreement that is necessary to
create a binding contract.
Neither of these things happened. OIF continually relies on the theory
that name certificates were licenses and that these "licenses" gave
"the Foundation" the right to control the centers. This, as usual with
OIF's arguments, is backwards. No license is valid unless the one doing
the licensing (the licensor) already owns the legal rights being
licensed. If there is no prior ownership, there is nothing to license,
and there is no legal license. No one can acquire rights by licensing.
In addition, if legally enforceable licenses were ever formed by RF or
RFI and Rajneesh centers, the licenses would have to have been legally
transferred to OIF before they would be in any way relevant to OIF's
claims to own exclusive rights to use Osho. No licenses were ever
assigned to OIF by any other entity or individual.
Copyrights and trademarks
OIF sometimes claims that RF, RFI, and OIF consecutively owned Osho's
copyrights, and since they owned the copyrights they had the exclusive
right to use both Rajneesh and Osho in the marketplace. This argument
is absolutely baseless. These entities never had more than a
conditional publishing license, but even if they had owned all the
copyrights they claim, that would never have given them exclusive
rights to use Rajneesh/Osho in the marketplace. In the US, use of a
name as the author of a book or the "performer" in a recording is not
even a trademark use, except in special circumstances.
From the very beginning of Osho's work with people, the centers that
operated around the world were a big part of the work, teaching people
how to meditate, introducing them to Osho's teachings, and conducting
events, groups, and sessions. All of the center activities where people
paid, even by donations, were activities in the marketplace. The many
center activities, including publishing material like the Rajneesh/Osho
Times and the Viha Connection: The World of Osho, have nothing to do
with Osho's copyrights (unless a publication contained direct quotes).
Copyrights have nothing to do, for example, with offering meditation
classes or music events. Individuals at centers and on their own
developed goods and services such as therapy groups, meditation
classes, and music and celebration events. The goods and services were
the creative products of those individuals and legally belonged to them.
With so many centers and individuals independently developing their own
goods and services, ownership of Osho's copyrights could never give
anyone exclusive rights to use Osho in the marketplace. It would also
not give the copyright holder legal ownership of the many products and
services created by other centers and individuals and marketed under
Rajneesh/Osho for many years.
OIF started out the trademark saga by saying something that wasn't
true. It claimed that it owned exclusive rights to own Osho around the
world because Osho himself had assigned the rights to it. Ever since
that claim has been proven false, OIF has been grasping at straws,
attempting to revise history, and trying to carry out the trademark
claim through bluff. The simple truth is that Osho never assigned
rights in any of His names to anyone. Instead, from the beginning of
His work to the end of His life He asked everyone involved in His work
to use His name. This means that no one has ever had the exclusive
legal right to use any of His names as a trademark. No one has ever had
the legal right to control Osho centers. This is how Osho asked that it
be, and this is legally how it is.