OIF Strategies and Tactics
OIF, Zurich’s claim to own copyrights and trademarks related to Osho’s work involves a lot of misdirection and attempts to create confusion. There are six basic strategies and tactics OIF, Zurich uses to create this confusion.
1. “Osho asked us.”
OIF, Zurich is constantly insisting that Osho asked them to do things contradictory to what Osho asked for in His discourses. Yet, Osho’s actions or failure to act are in every instance consistent with His public statements.
For example, OIF, Zurich claims Osho asked it to “protect His name.” In fact, when He changed His name to Osho in 1989, Osho did not assign His new name to OIF, Zurich or any other group like the Inner Circle, as He could have done, but publicly requested that all His people around the world start using it at the same time for their goods and services. Is it credible that Osho would have made a secret request for “protection” to OIF, Zurich, while at the same time taking public action that would make any such “protection” impossible?
Also, in his 2003 deposition in the trademark case Yogendra [D’Arcy O’Byrne] testified that he had no knowledge of Osho asking for his name to be used as a trademark and didn’t know of anyone who did. (See The Ever-Changing Story for details.)
OIF, Zurich insists that Osho wanted them to control all the Osho centers in spite of lists of public statements by Osho that He wanted all centers, ashrams, etc. to remain independent. OIF, Zurich insists that Osho wanted OIF, Zurich to exert control over sannyasins and centers in spite of lists of public statements by Osho that He wanted no church, no religion, no Vatican, and that He would have no single successor.
The choice of whether or not to believe claims of what “Osho asked” is up to each individual on a personal level, but at the legal level, these claims are simply hearsay. They can never be used to counter the printed/recorded versions of public statements or to counteract Osho’s actions or choices not to act. Osho chose not to assign His copyrights, name, signature, artwork, and so on, to anyone else. Nothing can change that now.
2. “The Foundation”
OIF, Zurich loves to refer to itself as “the Foundation,” as if there is just one foundation involved in Osho’s work. That is clearly not the case. There are, and have been for decades, many different legal entities, including those that called themselves “foundations,” involved in Osho’s work. In the US trademark case Pramod [Klaus Steeg] testified that there were at least ten different ones operating in Pune alone around the time of the name change. Several others have been created since. There are many other legal entities dedicated to Osho’s work in countries around the world, including many centers.
In the US trademark case OIF, Zurich defined “the Foundation” to include Rajneesh Foundation (India), Rajneesh Foundation International (US), and Osho International Foundation (Switzerland). Pramod [Steeg], in his testimony, kept referring to the actions of “the foundation” without identifying which of these three foundations he was talking about.
In doing this OIF, Zurich was trying to create the illusion that there had always been one primary foundation and that OIF, Zurich was the recipient of all the power of the other two foundations. In reality, the only assignments between these three entities are the ones in the Copyright section. These conveyed nothing but a possible conditional publishing license for eight books.
None of these foundations ever assigned any other kind of ownership rights to each other and they never assigned any rights related to any trademark claim. OIF, Zurich is in no way a continuation of any other foundation in any other country.
There has never been one foundation that controlled the other entities involved in Osho’s work. (See What is the legal structure of the Osho movement? ) Today there is not one single “foundation” involved in the work and no one entity has a legitimate right to call itself “the foundation.”
OIF, Zurich has at times referred to Osho, RF, and RFI as its “predecessors.” Sometimes it refers to its former names (Rajneesh Foundation Europe, Neo-Sannyas International Foundation) and the former names of RF and RFI as predecessors too. This may be to create the impression that OIF, Zurich has received rights from many places.
When pressed on cross examination Pramod [Steeg] testified that this claim that others are “predecessors” of OIF, Zurich refers only to the copyrights OIF, Zurich claims to have received in the documents reviewed in the Copyrights section. He admitted that no one was a “predecessor” of OIF, Zurich for trademark rights.
In spite of this, OIF, Zurich made several references to “predecessors” in its trial brief in the US case, used in the context of predecessors for trademark rights.
4. Ownership by Acknowledgment
Over the years OIF, Zurich has represented to others that it owns the copyrights to Osho’s work and that it owns trademarks for “Osho.” It now argues that because others believed those representations of OIF, Zurich, that those others have “acknowledged” OIF, Zurich’s ownership. They seem to put forward some strange legal theory of ownership by acknowledgment.
During the trial testimony in the US case, one of OIF, Zurich’s attorneys kept showing witnesses for Osho Friends copies of products, like CDs, where OIF, Zurich claimed to own copyrights, and asking the witnesses who owned the copyrights. None of the witnesses, of course, had any personal knowledge about who owned the copyrights and couldn’t answer the questions.
The reality is that there is no legal theory of ownership by acknowledgment. A copyright or trademark is transferred through a written assignment or it isn’t transferred at all. If someone convinces others that it owns something it doesn’t actually own, that deception doesn’t give the claimant any actual ownership rights.
If OIF, Zurich told a center that it owned copyrights and the center relied on that representation, that doesn’t mean that the center has “acknowledged” that OIF, Zurich owns the copyrights. OIF, Zurich has represented to St. Martin’s Press, for example, that it owns copyrights. It can’t argue that St. Martin’s Press has “acknowledged” that OIF, Zurich owns those rights.
OIF, Zurich owns copyrights by assignment or not at all, and since Osho never assigned copyright ownership, OIF, Zurich owns them not at all. Centers, companies, and individuals that have relied on OIF, Zurich’s representations that it owned copyrights and signed copyright license agreements are not in any bound by any way acknowledgment that OIF, Zurich owned the rights now.
5. Offense Is the Best Defense
OIF, Zurich also tries to create confusion and distract attention from the shortcomings of its legal arguments by making attacks on the opposing party. In the US case these included unsubstantiated claims about past publishing activity, trademark filings, and the private activities of some Osho Friends members.
6. Questionable Documents
In the US case OIF, Zurich attempted to introduce documents related to the testimony of witnesses subpoenaed by Osho Friends. Some of these were documents the witnesses had no memory of seeing before. For example, Dhanyam (Rosansky) was confronted with an alleged license agreement with OIF, Zurich to produce T-shirts that he had never produced. Dhanyam testified that he had no memory of the document, could not authenticate it, and that he had not produced the T-shirts, only sold them. (In spite of this, OIF, Zurich’s attorney argued in oral argument that Dhanyam has “acknowledged” OIF, Zurich’s ownership of “Osho” by signing the document.)
Later, Dhanyam searched his extensive files, and no such document could be found. He also realized that the document produced by OIF, Zurich was allegedly signed by him as “center leader” in 1991, but Viha had been incorporated in 1989 and he had signed all documents related to Viha as “president” after that time.
OIF, Zurich also produced another document that purported to be an assignment of a domain name from Harideva to OIF, Zurich, an assignment that Harideva is certain he never signed. When Amrito (John Andrews), who had also allegedly signed this document, was asked about it in sworn testimony, he said that he had never seen Harideva (Heiligmann) sign the document and that he didn’t have the original signed document. (Andrews testimony, Q. 52–56.)
Witnesses appearing in opposition to OIF, Zurich in any legal dispute should be prepared to deal with this kind of situation.