What’s wrong with OIF’s claim to own trademarks?
There are two basic problems with OIF’s claims to own trademarks. The first is the one pointed out in both the 2000 domain name decision and the 2009 US Trademark Board decision: Osho is not used as a trademark. Osho’s given name, Rajneesh, and His pseudonym, Osho, have both been used over the past 40 years to describe all the work done by thousands of individuals and hundreds of centers around the world related to Osho’s teachings and the movement that arose around Him. When Osho adopted the name Osho in 1989, He asked that it be used the same way Rajneesh had been used for so many years, and it has been used that way since 1989. Since the name is associated with Osho’s entire teaching and movement, it can’t be a trademark for anyone. (See Genericness ).
The next big problem OIF has is one not reached by the US Trademark Board when it cancelled the trademarks because “Osho” is generic. That problem is that no one can legitimately register a trademark unless at the time of the application/registration they own exclusive rights to use that trademark in the geographical area involved (US, EU, etc.). There are a few ways someone can gain exclusive rights. They can create or “coin” the term themselves, but OIF clearly didn’t coin “Osho.” Osho was a title from the Zen tradition that Osho spoke about and His people asked if they could use to refer to Him. OIF has admitted this. Next, in the case of the name of a living person, the trademark claimant can have an assignment of rights from the person involved. For years OIF claimed it had an assignment of trademark rights from Osho, but this turned out to be completely false. (See The Ever-Changing Story.) The last way that a person or entity can gain exclusive rights in the marketplace is to use the mark first in commerce. This is the basis OIF now uses to claim ownership. (See First Use in the Marketplace)
Even if a trademark claimant makes the first use in the marketplace it will lose any rights it has if others also begin using it in the marketplace and do so for several years without permission or control by the claimant. This is why OIF came up with the Letters of Understanding around 1998, to claim that it had always controlled the centers and individuals who had been using “Osho” for nine years. OIF also claims that it has been exercising control over all centers since 1989. (See Abandonment and Quality Control)
Trademarks can be cancelled if the person or entity registering the trademark made false or misleading statements to the agency involved. In the US trademark case Osho Friends argues that OIF had made two major fraudulent statements to the trademark office: that Osho had assigned rights to OIF and that no one but OIF had the right to use “Osho” in the marketplace at the time of the application/registration. (See Fraud)
Finally, both the domain name decision and the US Trademark Board decision pointed out that no one can own or monopolize a religious teaching or a religious movement. People can always refer to the person Osho as an inspiration for their work. No one can ever prevent that or prevent others from forming religious centers or organizations around a religious teaching. (See Religious Freedom).