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Abandonment and Quality Control

Abandonment and Quality Control

Even if some person or entity was able to prove first use of a trademark in the marketplace for a good or service, if other people began using the same term to describe their independent goods and services at around the same time and continued to do so for several years, any rights created by the first use would be abandoned.

At some point OIF realized that any claim it might make to trademarks had been abandoned because all Osho centers and many individuals had been independently using “Osho” for at least nine years. OIF had to recreate history to try and make it appear that the centers had not, in fact, been independent during that time.

Around 1998 OIF or Global Connections in Pune had sent out Letters of Understanding (LOUs) for centers to sign. Either at that time, or at some later point, OIF decided to claim that these letters were legally binding trademark licenses for the use of “Osho” on behalf of OIF. Neither OIF nor Global Connections informed the centers of this belief before LOUs were signed or for several years after.

When Osho Friends pointed out that the LOUs were not only not trademark licenses, but that they were nine years too late, OIF claimed that it had formed legally binding oral licenses with all Osho centers in the world to use Osho in 1989. OIF was unable to produce one scrap of competent testimony or documentation to support this theory and was unable to show why it would have owned any exclusive rights in “Osho” to license to centers in 1989 anyway, since it had no assignment from Osho.

In reality, the Letters of Understanding (LOUs) aren’t legitimate trademark licenses. (See Trial Brief of Opposer/Petitioner pp. 18–21; 40–41; Reply Trial Brief of Opposer/Petitioner pp. 17–18.)

For a discussion of the oral license claim see: Trial Brief of Opposer/Petitioner [link] pp. 21; Reply Trial Brief of Opposer/Petitioner pp. 18–19.)

OIF used a significant portion of it’s brief in the US case to claim that it had exercised “quality control” over the centers. This “control” generally consisted of things like casual visits or travel by Vatayana to lead meditation groups for profit that were retroactively characterized as “inspections,” visits to Pune that were characterized as “training,” and various claims to control the activities at the Pune center, which OIF has no legal authority to do. Of course, OIF has no right to “control” what it doesn’t own in the first place.

A legitimate trademark holder has a product or service that it licenses others to sell in the marketplace under the trademark. For example, a fast-food franchise is authorized to sell chicken prepared by a certain process using a certain recipe. The goods or services originate with the trademark holder.

In the situation of Osho’s work, none of the activities of individuals or centers originate with OIF. Osho’s meditation techniques have been in the public domain for many years, since Osho authorized wide use beginning in the 1960 and never exercised control. Other activities like publications, meditation sessions, meditation events, groups, workshops, personal sessions, meditation and celebration events, festivals, classes, cultural events, retreats, and so on, have never originated with OIF. They have originated with individuals and centers that have been inspired by Osho and His teachings. This has been true for many years.

This means that OIF’s relationship with the Osho centers is not the relationship of a trademark holder, since none of the goods or services originate with OIF. The relationship OIF seeks to impose on centers is one of a religious hierarchy seeking to control and monopolize a religious teaching.

For example, in the Letter of Understanding Global Connections (GC) discussed its desire to limit the activities of centers to “Osho,” but what does that mean? For example, if one of Osho’s sannyasins or someone who was inspired by Osho is enlightened, is that included in “Osho”? Are the further insights of Osho’s people, “Osho”? Why does OIF or GC have the authority to decide that Osho centers must be limited to “Osho” or to define what “Osho” means?

These kinds of questions are not trademark questions. They don’t involve some good or service that originates with OIF. These are questions about the attempt to control and monopolize a religious teaching. Though OIF calls this kind of attempt to interfere in the religious activities of centers “trademark quality control,” it clearly is not that. OIF has no quality of goods or services to protect, and it cannot monopolize or control people involved in a religious teaching against their wishes. (See Religious Freedom.)



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