A decision by the EU General Court in Luxembourg from 11. October 2017 is now final and confirms the validity of the OSHO trademark and ownership by Osho International Foundation, Switzerland [case T670/15].
In this article we will take a close look at the background of this legal case, its implications and give the Osho Times readers a background why Osho sees the need to legally protect his name and work and why the OSHO trademark is so unique and successful.
The final decision in this case is in fact the legal confirmation of two previous decisions by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in 2014 and 2015, which had made two very clear decisions in favor of OIF’s claim to the mark, rejecting any attempt to cancel it. The General Court confirmed in this final judgement the previous decisions by EUIPO on each and every point. The OSHO Times has reported previously about EUIPO’s decision.
The attempt to invalidate the OSHO trademark has been part of a concerted attack by a small group of people, attempting to gain control of Osho intellectual property. These people were previously involved in the foundation’s work, including and spearheaded by Robert Doetsch, also known as Swami Ramateertha, the controlling figure of a local Osho Meditation Center in Cologne Germany. Doetsch who is also a disciple of UG Krishnamurti used an Osho Mediation Center to launch a legal attack on Osho’s work.
Doetsch was and is involved in other similar attacks, including a 2014 attempt to take control of the Swiss foundation. In an unusually worded stinging response, the Swiss government rejected all claims made against the directors of the foundation and confirmed that Doetsch had mislead the Swiss Authorities with false and malicious accusations. In additions the Swiss found that he had intentionally withheld the fact that since the year 2000, he and closely related parties had attempted to take legal action against Osho International Foundation (OIF) in various countries, with the aim of “bringing down” the trademarks and copyrights of OIF. Doetsch and his group had taken steps to highjack the foundation, a foundation from which Osho had personally requested Doetsch to resign thirty years earlier in 1986 after he was initially appointed to the board by Sheela Silverman.
As was the case in the Swiss action, Doetsch intentionally mislead the European Trademark Office, pretending to be an independent party, hiding his previous close relationship with the foundation. On this point the judges stated, “The Applicant [Osho Lotus Commune e.V and Robert Doetsch] has attempted to conceal its long standing association with OIF.”
In the context of these legal cases, Doetsch and his group, acting like politicians, for years published “fake news,” intentionally spreading misinformation about trademarks and their use in the context of Osho’s work, misleading the public in order to damage the integrity and reputation of the foundation created by Osho to carry on his work. Both the Swiss Government and the EU Trademark Office exposed these details as, “malicious,” “false,” “deliberately confusing,” and “unsubstantiated.” In spite of these clear decisions from these government bodies Doetsch and his group continued their endeavor to cause divisions between people involved in Osho’s work.
Ramateertha misled people and Osho centers with false details about OSHO trademarks, financial misinformation and so on, basically trying to paint Osho’s foundation as basically criminal, commercial, and controlling.
After instructing that his entire work be now known and presented under “OSHO,” in January 1990 Osho reviews the re-branding of his work – the program presentations of the OSHO Multiversity.
What is the OSHO trademark for – and what it is not for?
“OSHO” has now developed into a “Lovemark,” one of these very unique situations where a brand and trademark is so much more than a commercial source – but develops additional aspects including a connection based on emotional association, respect, and love.
People come in contact with OSHO on many different levels, through publications of Osho’s and the foundation’s works, meditation experiences, Music from the World of Osho, videos on the internet, audiobooks, a visit to the Osho International Meditation Resort or an Osho Meditation center… and many other opportunities. They will experience as many unique expressions as there are individuals.
Osho has an incredible understanding of how to present his work, and of the importance of “branding” his work by adding his name to everything, from buildings, meditations, music, departments, discos – in fact anything related to his work was originally branded with the name “Rajneesh.” Even in the 1970’s his name was an internationally registered trademark which protected his work and reserved this name for his foundation and his meditation centers, ensuring that his name and brand were known all over the world.
Trademarks are “source-indicators” – they confirm from where a product or a service is coming. We know trademarks mostly in a commercial and corporate context, being familiar with big brand names like SONY®, Microsoft®, and Apple®, but trademark law also grants the same protection to charitable entities with a non-commercial focus and, as in Osho’s case a “spiritual” or more “philosophical” aspect and focus of their services, work, and products. Osho often describes the connection to him and his work as a “love affair.”
During his time in the body, Osho creates a foundation responsible for the formal distribution and publications of his work and brand and the trademark which indicates the foundation as the formal source. Publications, names for meditation centers, and meditations come from the foundation and are shared by Osho’s people who are involved and associate themselves based on Osho’s suggestion of participation, contribution, meditation, and celebration. The OSHO trademark, now a “lovemark” for many, represents a wide variety of digital products, books, meditation techniques and services, and a whole life-style program, integrating many aspects of his vision under one “lovemark.”
In his accusation that the OSHO trademark is “monopolization,” Doetsch showed a total misunderstanding of trademarks, of the protection of intellectual property and personality rights, and intentionally misinterpreted Osho and his request to protect his name and work and stated in these proceedings: “The intentions of Osho himself are irrelevant.” The court rejected all such arguments and confirmed what Osho has wanted all along: that his work be made available, under the mark OSHO, which can be disseminated under the quality control of the Foundation by people Osho trusted and to prevent that every “Tom Dick and Harry” can operate under the OSHO umbrella and pretend to be in some “Osho lineage,” offering their own ideas or distorted versions of his vision.
The OSHO trademark is available free of charge under license for Osho’s meditation centers and entities who share Osho’s vision in connection with the foundation. The mark is not available to people who try to run their unauthorized personal businesses for their enrichment, nor for activities, as in Doetsch’s and his group case, explicitly against Osho’s foundation.
A very important aspect in this case was Doetsch trying to misrepresent Osho by putting him in the same category as Jesus and Buddha and other religious leading figures who are today exploited by the established religions. The court rejected any such comparison and any argument in this direction. Osho is an individual of modern times, enjoying legal protection of his work, his copyrights and his name – even if some people do not understand the point Osho makes throughout his public life, fighting these very religious figures and the religions they brought about.
Osho has been endlessly clear that, no matter how much we may want him to be some charismatic savior figure, he is not a “leader” of any sort, religious or otherwise, and in particular he emphatically distanced himself from all such historical figures:
“So I have been carrying a heavy weight on me, on my heart. My health has been destroyed for many reasons; the most important is that I have been speaking on people with whom I do not agree at all. I disagree – not only disagree, but I find them basically psychotic, neurotic, schizophrenic, anti-life. All these religions in the past are anti-life. Nobody is for life, nobody is for living, nobody is for laughter. No religion has accepted a sense of humor as a quality of religiousness.”
In 1989, Osho requests that the presentation of his complete work in all aspects, including his meditations and meditation centers be re-branded under “OSHO,” replacing the long-standing brand of his previous name. Osho requests that all products and services are branded with “OSHO.”.
The court acknowledged and confirmed that activities, services and products in word-combinations like ‘Osho Meditations’, ‘Osho Meditation Centers’, ‘OSHO TIMES’, ‘“OSHO” as author’, ‘Music from the World of Osho’, ‘Osho Dance Meditation Training’; ‘Osho Full Moon Camp’; ‘Osho Management Training’; ‘Osho Festival’, ‘Osho Celebrations’, ‘Osho Pulsation Training’ and so on, are covered by legal trademark protection, “since the [Foundation] operates under the name of OSHO, explicitly aims at promoting the lifework and visions of OSHO and consequently brands all its activities under this mark.”
The fact that Osho has given the work of protecting and publishing this intellectual property to the Foundation, putting it under the guardianship of a specific group of people, was attacked by Doetsch as “monopolization” – a characterization completely dismissed by the judges.
It is now finally decided by the court that the OSHO trademark is not in the public domain and cannot be used by everybody for publication, promotion, advertisement, or any meditation activity, social media accounts, groups, or activities, unless permitted. The judgment makes it clear that just feeling “inspired” by Osho is not an acceptable argument to use the mark in any way. “Unlike ‘Buddha,’ OSHO is not a name that belongs firmly in the public domain,” which clarifies that in the online social media world, accounts, and websites which use the mark or author name, Osho, and publish or offer infringing and/or unrelated services or products under the mark, “OSHO” are infringements of the valid mark of the foundation.
The OSHO trademark under which the foundation and qualified licensee operate and offer services and products is registered in multiple relevant trademark classes. See: EU ‘OSHO’ mark 01245300
The mark is valid in more than 40 countries. With this decision the European Court has defended the trademark “OSHO” from an attempt to remove the protection of Osho’s work – a protection by trademark law which has been in place since the 1970’s.
Osho International Foundation holds, protects, and actively licenses the copyrights of Osho’s works and the brand name OSHO and has done so since 1985 and 1989 respectively. Both protective legal concepts of copyright and trademark were already legally implemented during Osho’s lifetime and have always been the legal framework of his work. Any claims that Osho’s work and intellectual properties should be without legal protection or claims that he personally wanted his work to be unprotected and freely available indiscriminately to everyone is nonsense, malicious, and an attempt to undermine his work as he left it. Based on this decision, the foundation is now able to take all necessary steps to protect these rights and to present Osho’s work as he envisions.