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Why a trademark?

 

If a trademark for Osho means that all of Osho’s work by centers and individuals would have to be strictly controlled, and Osho asked that we never do that, why is anyone trying to get a trademark? Why are hundreds of thousands of dollars of the Commune being spent on an attempt to force control on centers and individuals who prefer to remain independent?

 

These are questions only the proponents of trademarks could answer, but those proponents have offered a few explanations. One of the most common reasons given is that they want to protect Osho’s work and keep it “24 karat.” The urge to “protect” Osho is a strong one, but does Osho or His work need our protection? Did Osho want this kind of “protection”?

 

People used to say to Osho, “I’d die for you.” And Osho used to reply something to the effect of, “I want you to do something more difficult. Live for me. Dying is easy; anyone can do it. But living fully is more difficult.” Now some of us seem to be saying, “Osho, I’ll submit to control to protect you.” I can just hear Osho replying, “Do something much more difficult; be free for me; be my successor. Being a slave is easy; people have done it for millennia. Living in freedom is much more difficult.”

 

But putting the question of living in freedom aside, would a trademark for Osho really protect Osho’s work? The answer is no. A trademark is a right to use a word, phrase, symbol, or image in marketing. It has nothing to do with the content of the product or service being marketed. A trademark holder has to own the product or service being marketed before a trademark can be applied to the product or service in the marketplace. A trademark doesn’t give anyone ownership rights in any product or service the trademark holder doesn’t already own.

 

What about Osho’s meditation techniques? A trademark would have nothing to do with controlling how the meditation techniques are used either.

Osho knowingly and willingly put His meditation techniques in the public domain decades ago by not only allowing, but encouraging, people to use His techniques and to teach them to others. Osho wanted the techniques made available to as many people as possible, and Osho’s people took those techniques and spread them around the world. Because Osho chose to do that with His own techniques, they became essentially public property long ago. OIF doesn’t own Osho’s meditation techniques, and the US Patent and Trademark Office knows this. In a denial of OIF, Zurich's 1999 application to register “Dynamic Meditation” as a trademark, the examining attorney wrote:

 

The applicant argued that the applicant owns all copyrights in the writings and oral teachings of the mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho), including those identified by the proposed mark DYNAMIC MEDITATION. While it is true that the applicant may own rights in the writings and teachings of the mystic, the applicant does not own rights in a particular technique of meditation which is widely taught and practiced.

 

Decision of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Auma N. Reggy, Trademark Attorney

 

In its applications for trademarks for Osho Kundalini Meditation, and so on, the products OIF, Zurich is claiming to market are not the meditation techniques themselves, but music CDs to use with the meditation techniques. Since the Osho centers have meditation programs that teach and practice the meditation techniques, the centers also use the names of these meditations in the marketplace. This means that OIF can’t own exclusive rights to use the names of the meditation techniques, because OIF is not the only source for goods or services based on those techniques, nor does OIF have any ownership rights in the techniques that would give OIF the right to control how the centers use the meditation techniques in the marketplace.

 

Given this, OIF's claim that trademarks could keep the meditation techniques “24 karat” has to be based on either gross ignorance about OIF’s trademark applications and ownership or an intent to mislead the centers. No one can “protect” Osho’s meditation techniques, because no one owns them. Osho, by His own choice, gave them away. You might say He released them to Existence. He obviously trusted that the techniques needed no protection in the form of legal control, because He did everything to make sure that never happened.

 

The meditation techniques have been in the public domain for up to 30–40 years by now, and there’s no way for anyone to take legal ownership of those techniques away from the public. Trademarks for the names of the techniques would not allow OIF to control how anyone used those techniques. So if any center has the idea that it could sacrifice its independence and autonomy for the sake of protecting Osho’s meditation techniques, that effort would be entirely in vain.

 

Can a trademark for Osho allow the trademark holder to control how people talk about Osho or what they write about Him?
Absolutely not. A trademark that consists of the name (or in this case pseudonym) of a historical person has nothing whatsoever to do with control of the historical person or his/her estate or reputation. If I own a trademark for George Washington for a bank, for example, that doesn’t mean that I get to tell a major publisher what it can include in a new biography of George Washington. The trademark only means that I can use the name George Washington to market banking services; nothing else. A trademark for “Osho” is not about the person Osho. A trademark for “Osho” wouldn’t give the trademark holder any rights over Osho the person at all.

 

All countries where Osho trademarks have been claimed have laws protecting the freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Journalists, writers, publishers, and other commentators can say what they like about people as long as they don’t violate the laws of slander, liable, and defamation. Trademark laws are never used to limit freedom of the press or freedom of speech. In modern culture, if we don’t like what someone says we have the right to reply and debate. We don’t have the power to stifle the opinions of others.

 

It’s about control

An exclusive trademark for Osho will do one thing, and one thing only: force outside control on the centers and individuals doing Osho’s work.

 

We’re not talking here about people and centers willing to be controlled. We’re talking about forcing spiritual, legal, and financial control on individuals and centers that choose to be independent. Osho asked that all His centers remain independent, and many centers prefer to follow Osho’s guidance on that point. They have no desire to be part of an organization, hierarchy, or “religion” where others will dictate how goods and services related to Osho’s teachings must be produced.

 

An exclusive trademark for Osho is about, and only about, forcing control on those who do not want to be controlled.

 

OIF can have a hierarchy and a trademark

 

If OIF wants to have a trademark that identifies the goods and services that originate with OIF, it can have one; no problem. But that trademark won’t be “Osho” which is used by so many others. OIF can easily register a trademark for its own name, Osho International Foundation, without claiming exclusive rights to “Osho”. No one would object to that, and it wouldn’t affect anyone who wasn’t interested in being controlled by OIF.

 

If OIF wants it can set up its own hierarchy. Anyone can. OIF can set up its own operations any way it wants. It can control how Osho’s teachings are marketed under its OIF trademark, how “Osho’s vision” is presented, and how its franchised centers operate. There is absolutely nothing to stop OIF from doing any of this, as long as OIF doesn’t try to force its control, its marketing strategies, and its “vision” on centers and individuals who aren’t interested. Actually, any center can register its name as a trademark and set up whatever structure it wants.

 

If centers want to join OIF and be a franchised part of OIF’s operations, they’re free to do that too. There’s nothing to stop centers from becoming franchised OIF Centers or OIF Resorts. They can enter into any agreement with OIF they want, as long as the agreement is voluntary. No one is trying to tell OIF and its associates how they should be successors to Osho, but OIF is trying to tell others how they must operate and what they must do. Essentially, OIF is saying no one but the board of OIF can be successors to Osho and that OIF will force its “successorship” on others by using trademark law.

 

The dispute in this situation is about forcing control on those who choose independence instead. A trademark for Osho isn’t about anything else and won’t accomplish anything else. Though a trademark for “OIF” is the only legitimate trademark OIF could actually file, the only one that would accurately identify goods and services that originate with OIF, it’s the one trademark OIF has never sought. All of OIF’s efforts have been directed toward gaining control over independent individuals and centers, many of which do not want to be controlled.

 

So, why a trademark? It’s all about control of others. Does the phrase “lust for power” ring a bell?