2009 US Trademark Decision against
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 reports
on a major trademark decision in the US against OIF in
a case brought by Osho
Friends International. It is sourced from an Indian
Intellectual Property Law blog. For more legal pages, see OFI or Legal
The author of this blog piece
is Abhishek Malhotra, a distinguished Intellectual Property advocate
based in Delhi who practices in India and California, with a
wide-ranging expertise in IP and information technology. In this article, he
has presented the key parts of a trademark judgment from the US
Trademark Trial and Appellate Board (TTAB) issued in Jan 2009, a case
that went on for nearly ten years. The case was brought by OFI to contest
OIF's attempts to trademark Osho's name, meditations and various of his
symbols and therapeutic processes. OFI
has links to M$ Word and pdf versions of the complete decision plus a
link to the relevant US gov't website but as all of these links lead to lengthy, wordy and
complicated legal jargon that will be too much for ordinary folks to
wade through, Malhotra's blog post has been reposted here. It is not known what his connection with Osho
is, if any, nor his personal interest in the case. Formatting is more
or less as in his article.
Is OSHO a trademark? – Osho Friends to the Rescue
The Trademark Trial and Appellate Board, USA (TTAB), has, after a long
and interesting trial, answered the question with an emphatic NO.
This decision is music to the ears of Osho sanyasins who have been
using Osho's name to identify their activities for the last 20 years
and who have, of late, been constantly threatened with legal action by
Osho International Foundation (OIF), based on OIF's claimed trademark
rights and copyrights in and to Osho and content attributed to him.
More Good news. The appeal filed by OIF has been withdrawn by OIF and
the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has passed an order making
the order of the TTAB final.
The applications and registrations for OSHO and variations of OSHO were
discovered by Osho World Foundation (Osho World), the founder members
of Osho Friends International (OFI), when OIF filed a case against Osho
World for transfer of domain name, Oshoworld in 2000. The case was
based on these registrations and applications in USA. Osho World won
that case and followed up on the victory with filing cases for
cancellation of registered trademarks and opposition to the
registration of pending applications for OSHO and its variations.
[That domain name case was filed and
settled very quickly in 2000, under the jurisdiction of a different
regulatory body than the trademark case. Details of the domain name
case can be found at Sannyas
Wiki. It is good and useful to see the connection between the two cases. And
possibly some of Malhotra's interest in this trademark case has arisen
from some Delhi connection.]
The main arguments were:
That the word OSHO was generic, i.e., it was
required to be used for identifying all activities and teachings of
2. That OSHO was primarily used to describe all such activities and teachings.
3. That OIF played a fraud on the US Patents and
Trademark Office (USPTO) by stating that no one except OIF was entitled
to use OSHO even though OIF knew of the various centers using OSHO in
their names and in connection with their activities.
The TTAB, after hearing both parties and looking to the evidence filed
and testimonies of all persons concerned, concluded that OSHO was
generic and descriptive in respect of the activities and teachings of
OSHO and hence the registered OSHO trademarks are to be cancelled and
the applications for OSHO are to be rejected. As the TTAB ruled in
favour of OFI on the first two arguments, it did not give a
determination on the third argument of fraud. Some of the important
statements of the TTAB in its decision, which include important
findings of fact, are quoted below:
"Osho urged and authorized his followers to spread his teachings as
broadly as possible, throughout the world. To this end, his followers
transcribed and recorded his discourses and shared them with others
during Osho's lifetime. In addition, Osho's followers opened meditation
centers and camps in different parts of the world, offering several of
his meditation techniques. These followers have created and offer their
variations of music, cultural and celebratory events, education and
therapeutic courses, workshops and retreats based upon Osho's ideas.
Some of these followers and their centers have offered and continue to
offer publications, recordings and newsletters relating to their
activities and Osho's ideas. Such centers have also begun operating
internet websites relating to the same subjects. These centers operate
independently and separately from one another, without coordination by
any single source or hierarchy. Osho gave each center a name as a gift
and a certificate bearing such name. However, Osho neither controlled
nor created a hierarchy to control or supervise these centers.
Nonetheless, in 1989, upon adoption of his name, Osho requested that
the centers use Osho in their names so people would recognize them as
meditation centers based upon his teachings and ideas. Most centers
immediately complied with this request."
"…there is no evidence of record that the individual known as Osho ever
used OSHO as a trademark. Indeed, the parties agree that Osho never
owned or used OSHO as a mark. Thus, the record in this case supports a
finding that Osho himself neither claimed nor used OSHO as a trademark.
The record further supports a finding that Osho gave permission to his
followers to individually open centers utilizing his name to spread his
teachings throughout the world. In addition, the record supports a
finding that upon his adoption of the name, Osho requested that such
centers utilize OSHO at the beginning of their titles so they would be
recognized as "Osho meditation centers." Finally, the record supports a
finding that Osho never withdrew his permission for such centers to
refer to themselves using his name."
"…defendant (OIF) cannot appropriate the term OSHO to identify the
source of its goods and services related to such teachings."
"Because the evidence of record shows that consumers identify the term
OSHO with a series of meditative and religious teachings, defendant
(OIF) cannot monopolize such teachings by asserting trademark rights in
the generic term used to identify them."
"In this case, testimony and evidence of record establishes that Osho
himself requested that his followers change the names of their centers
to include OSHO so that they would be recognized as "Osho centers."
Further testimony and evidence establishes that the term OSHO is
necessary to describe the meditations, practices and beliefs that form
the core of the OSHO meditative and religious movement. As such, the
term OSHO must be freely available for the practitioners and followers
of the mystic Osho to be able to identify their activities based upon
his teachings. Based upon the foregoing, we find the term OSHO is
generic for the meditations devised by the mystic Osho and the
meditative and religious movement arising therefrom. As a result,
defendant (OIF) cannot foreclose others from utilizing the term OSHO to
describe their own goods and services based upon such meditations and
movements. Accordingly, we grant plaintiff's (OFI) petition to cancel
as to those marks consisting in whole of the term OSHO."
What does this mean for OSHO sanyasins?
This decision means that OIF cannot claim a monopoly in the USA on use
of the word OSHO in relation to Osho's teachings and activities and
cannot use these registrations and applications to threaten anyone who
is using OSHO in relation to Osho's teachings and activities or as
names of their centers/web addresses.
While OIF may try to rely upon registrations of OSHO and its variations
in other countries, these would now become vulnerable and perhaps open
to challenge based on the detailed finding given by the TTAB.