Options for Centers

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 outlines options for maintaining an Osho center in the face of a challenge from OIF. It is sourced from Osho Friends International. For more legal pages, see OFI or Legal Main Page.

Our Options

Everyone involved in the question of center independence has options. If some people want their center to become essentially a franchise of OIF, Zürich, they have every right to do that. No one is obligated to follow Osho's suggestions to be independent. That's why He called them suggestions, after all. It's equally true that people who don't want their centers to be franchises have a right to choose independence. No center that wants to be independent can ever be legally controlled by OIF, Zürich. OIF, Zürich cannot control your center unless you allow it. This is essential to remember.

One issue that always comes up in discussions of this topic is OIF, Zürich's pattern of intimidation, either by threatening to bring lawsuits to claim rights they don't own (and know or should know they don't own), or by arranging with the management of the Pune center to have people banned from the Pune center. In the US the crime of extortion is defined as demanding or obtaining property from another through the use of threats, coercion, or intimidation. If OIF, Zürich or individuals in OIF, Zürich are using the threat of banning to try and coerce people to give up valuable legal rights in their nonprofit businesses, that may be a crime. It may also violate other laws related to civil rights, religious freedom, and unfair interference with business relations.

It's essential that this behavior be carefully documented so that appropriate legal action can be taken against both entities and individuals involved. In the questionnaire section there is a questionnaires covering several forms of intimidation. It's very important that anyone who has been banned, or threatened either with a lawsuit or with banning, send in the details of actions or threats so that the whole picture of intimidation practices can be demonstrated. If possible, give both the sannyas and legal names of individuals involved in the intimidation.

This is not just hypothetical; three of the people who testified in the trademark case, Dhanyam at Viha, Suvarna from Boulder OMC, and Satya Priya from Padma OMC in New York have been banned from Pune for testifying. They were all subpoenaed to testify, properly served with subpoenas, and could not legally refuse to testify. There has never been any charge that they testified untruthfully. Instead, Pramod has openly admitted in testimony in the US trademark case to arranging to have them banned simply because they dared to testify at all. Other former members of the Boulder OMC board were also threatened with banning for the center's refusal to sign a Letter of Understanding and agree that OIF, Zürich owned the rights Boulder OMC had gained by using Osho in the marketplace for many years. In other words, they were threatened with banning for refusing to assign valuable legal rights to OIF, Zürich .

This is why it's essential to collect information so that OIF and the individuals involved know they will be held accountable for their actions. There is also a place on the center questionnaires for centers that have been told they have to stop using Osho's name or stop being an Osho center. Collecting this information is very important.

Whichever option you choose for your center, franchising or independence, you should read the articles below to protect your legal and financial rights.

[In the OFI presentation, these "articles below" were not actually on the same page but linked to, on their own pages. Here, they have been all gathered below, with links to their original separate pages in OFI's site.]

Being an Independent Center

It's very important that everyone keep in mind that you always have the right to have an independent center. There's nothing OIF, Zürich can ever do to prevent you from doing that.

OIF, Zürich is claiming to own the name of a religious leader/teacher as a trademark and claims that it can prevent others who are legitimately connected to the historical person Osho from using His name in their work. As you can see from the articles on trademarks, this will always be a very difficult argument for OIF, Zürich to make in any country.

Even if by some bizarre decision OIF, Zürich's claim to trademark ownership is upheld in some country, this will still not prevent centers from being independent. This is because trademarks don't control the use of the name of the historical person. So the question becomes, is the use of Osho in a center name a reference to the historical person or a trademark use? You should check with a trademark authority in your country to determine this. You can always change the name of the center in such a way as to make the reference to the historical person more clear, such as, Rabia Meditation Center: Based on the teachings of Osho. A trademark of Osho could never allow OIF, Zürich to prevent you from referring to the historical person. This is why a trademark for "Osho" is unlikely ever to be upheld if the claim is challenged. If the public would have a hard time distinguishing between "Osho" being used as a trademark and "Osho" as a reference to the historical person, then "Osho" can never be an effective trademark for anyone.

As is explained in the trademark section, OIF, Zürich might get a trademark for its own name, Osho International Foundation, and could create any kind of organization, hierarchy, or franchise arrangement that it wants under that mark, as long as the other parties enter into the agreement by consent, not coercion. A trademark for "Osho" could never be a clear trademark for OIF, Zürich as long as there are independent centers that are referring to themselves in relation to the historical person Osho.

As a center choosing independence you have several options:
If you send either of these letters to OIF, Zürich, it would be very helpful if you also email a copy to this site so that the information about who has objected can be gathered in one place. Then, if OIF, Zürich decides to mount a legal attack on any center, that center will have access to information about other independent centers.
It's very important to gather information in one place that can be used in any legal action where OIF, Zürich makes these claims. The questionnaire section of this site has a number of questionnaires that apply to pretty much all sannyasins. If everyone pitches in and answers these questions, then a body of evidence will be waiting for any party that is legally attacked by OIF, Zürich .

A good collection of evidence will make it very, very difficult for OIF, Zürich to ever succeed in a trademark claim anywhere in the world. So, please, take the time to answer a few questions and make sure what you know is available to people who might need it to keep their work independent.

Being a Franchised Center

Osho asked that all His centers remain independent for a good reason. He realized that real consciousness doesn't arise out of packaged processes. That's why He spoke scathingly about the idea of registering trademarks for meditation techniques and asked for the centers to remain individual and unique. Nonetheless, if Osho was about anything, He was about freedom. That includes the freedom to make what other people see as mistakes. If you decide to become a franchised center under OIF, Zürich's control and part of an organized spiritual group, then there are some things you should do to protect yourself.

First, you can see from reading the articles on trademarks and the legal organization of the Osho movement, OIF, Zürich currently has no real trademark licenses or franchise agreements. The downside of this is that OIF, Zürich has a hard time proving it has any legal control over anyone. The upside for OIF, Zürich is that since no specifics have ever been agreed to, OIF, Zürich can claim any kind of control it wants. Currently OIF, Zürich is claiming complete control, including the right to claim all profits. (See What is a Trademark? for quotes from OIF, Zürich.) If you want to be a franchise of OIF, Zürich, then you should negotiate clear terms so that there will be no surprises in the future.

In negotiating terms with OIF, Zürich you should always have a good lawyer in your country, since OIF, Zürich is always represented by counsel who are willing to make questionable claims on OIF, Zürich's behalf (such as the claim to own all of Osho's work). If you aren't represented by competent counsel, you won't stand a chance of getting a fair agreement. Never accept the agreement that OIF, Zürich's lawyers have drafted. This is basic business good sense. Always get your own lawyer to review documents for you.

Your lawyer can tell you what your rights are, the pluses and minuses of entering into a franchise agreement, and the terms you can negotiate. For example, you can define what OIF can control, how OIF, Zürich will exercise control, the amount of money OIF, Zürich can claim as a franchise fee, and how the license can be ended by either party.

If you agree to be a trademark licensee of OIF, Zürich without negotiating clear terms, then you face the possibility that OIF will claim more and more control and money over time. This might be particularly true as the makeup of the OIF board changes, as is inevitable over time.

Value the hard work you've done in setting up and operating a center, know that you don't have to agree to a franchise at all, and then, if you do agree, protect yourself so that you know what to expect in the future.

What You Can Do to Help

There is something anyone who has spent time around Osho can do to help, and that is to provide information. OIF, Zürich's entire claim to own legal rights in the name "Osho" is based a fictionalized history that never really happened. It's essential that the real history of Osho's work be documented so that this baseless claim can never be successful.

It's fine if OIF, Zürich wants to start a church and have franchised centers under an "Osho International Foundation" trademark, as long as they don't claim exclusive rights to "Osho." Many of us may have judgments about that and not agree, but the whole challenge Osho gave us when He named all of us successors was to find a way to hold a space for very different points of view. What isn't fine is for OIF, Zürich to try and force people to submit to OIF, Zürich's control simply because those people are doing work connected to the teachings of the historical person Osho.

We can hold the space for freedom of choice in this situation by gathering evidence about the past and having it available for anyone who is legally threatened or attacked by OIF, Zürich for choosing to maintain an independent center. Please take the time to fill out questionnaires that apply to you and your experiences.

If you know of other people to whom these questionnaires apply, please contact them and ask them to answer the questions. If they aren't computer literate, you could assist them. If we are really interested in "protecting" Osho's work, this is the most effective thing we can do. By gathering information in one place we can prevent OIF, Zürich or anyone else from ever creating a legal organization that attempts to coerce sannyasins and lovers of Osho into a controlled "religion" with dogma, doctrine, priests, and a hierarchy, where all activity has to be approved by the priesthood. This is essentially what OIF is proposing, though it doesn't use that language. See What is a Trademark? for OIF, Zürich's own statements about the kind of control it wants to enforce against unwilling Osho centers.