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Osho and OIF

Osho and OIF

Osho had no legal connection with OIF, Zurich 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.

The Declarent 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 Osho.

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:

The 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.

Steeg testimony.

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, Pramod testified:

Q: 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?

A: No.

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):

A. 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 meetings.

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 Meditation Centers?

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:

Q. 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?

A. Yes.

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 decisions.

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 isn’t true.)

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. Parmod [Steeg] testified in 2007 that this never happened.

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:

  • Already 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.



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