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In 2000 a US for-profit corporation, America Multi-Media Corporation, filed a claim on behalf of OIF, Zurich with the National Arbitration Forum against Osho Dhyan Mandir and Atul Anand in New Delhi. The complaint claimed that OIF owned trademarks for “Osho” in the US, and as a result, Osho Dhyan Mandir’s domain name “OSHOWORLD.COM” should be transferred to OIF, since OIF was the only entity that could have a domain name including “Osho” on the entire Internet.

The arbitrator refused OIF’s demand in a strong decision, where he said:

This record…is more than sufficient to establish that OSHO does not and cannot serve as a source indicator and/or distinguishing moniker for Complainant [OIF] and/or Complainant’s goods and services. Under these circumstances, there is serious doubt as to whether Complainant “has rights” in such a trademark or service mark because the purported mark does not and cannot serve a trademark purpose.

The overwhelming evidence indicates that it refers to Osho, his teachings and his spiritual movement.
(Decision, p. 4–5)

(Nine years later the US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) reached the same decision that “Osho” is not a source indicator for OIF, Zurich and that, instead, the term refers to the person Osho, his teachings, and his spiritual movement. On this basis all trademark registrations or applications including “Osho” were cancelled or denied.)

The arbitrator went on to point out, as the TTAB did later, that trademarks cannot be used to attempt to monopolize a religious teaching:

To grant Complainant’s request for relief would be to permit virtual monopolization on the Internet by Complainant of any domain name which includes the name of a great spiritual teacher and leader. While making no judgment on the relative merits or validity of the world’s religious or spiritual movements or any leader thereof, this Arbitrator finds that permitting this would be as improper as doing the same with Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Zorastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shintoism or any of the several hunder other of the world’s religions and/or spiritual movements. Neither the Lanham Act nor the ICANN Policy and Rules contemplate or intend such a result.
(Decision, p. 6)

 

 

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