|Ramateertha on EU Court of Justice Decision on the “Osho” Trademark
Posted by owp Monday, October 30, 2017 at 13:41
|On October 11, 2017, the European Court of Justice pronounced its verdict in the “Osho” trademark case, writes Ramateertha [of Osho Lotus Commune, Cologne, Germany].
Our appeal requesting the cancellation of the trademark was dismissed, and the EUCJ has thus confirmed the validity of the trademark as a brand.
The subject of the relationship between Osho and meditation was debated in a hearing before the court in Luxembourg on December 13, 2016. At this hearing, the lawyer of Osho International Foundation stated: “Osho has nothing to do with meditation – it is a brand.” The court has now decided in favor of this interpretation.
In my view it is a fateful irony that the name of the man who spent all his life speaking about meditation, and for whom meditation was the focus of his entire life and work, has now been established as the brand name of a business organization in Europe.
Let us review the facts: For the first eight years after Osho’s death in 1990 the use of the name Osho was not restricted in any way. The posthumous annexation and monopolization of the name Osho began in around 1998 with its registration as a trademark for Osho International Foundation in Zurich. This was done behind the back of the community of Osho’s followers, clearly in an attempt to forestall possible (justified) objections to the registration.
The retrospective allegation that Osho himself wanted his name to be a trademark and that he actually ordered its registration is simply untrue. It is an attempt to mislead, and to legitimize OIF’s own objectives and plans.
In a press notice released on October 17, OIF writes that they are delighted that they are now able to preserve Osho’s message in its purest form, “like 24-karat gold.” This creates the impression that Osho himself personally entrusted OIF with this “task”. In reality, the request to disseminate and preserve his message ‘24-carat gold’ was made in a public lecture delivered by Osho in 1986, and it was addressed to all his disciples and friends! (Sermons in Stones, lecture 12, question 4). Here too, in my opinion, OIF is indirectly appointing itself as the guardian of Osho’s message and attempting to distract attention from its own real interests.
In the USA, Osho’s sannyasins resisted the monopolization of his name, and after a trial lasting seven years the name Osho was cancelled as a trademark in the USA. The decisive point there was that Osho was seen as a spiritual teacher, and the use of the name Osho as a trademark was thus not allowed because it would have constituted a restriction of the free practice of religion.
The appeal against the use of the name Osho as a trademark in Europe began in 2009, with the objective of enabling free use of the name Osho in Europe in the same way as in America. The European Patent Office ultimately dismissed the request to cancel the Osho trademark on the grounds that, although Osho was a spiritual teacher, the content of his teachings was not concrete enough for his name to be able to stand for a clearly defined message.
During the litigation the OIF lawyer submitted an affidavit together with a will that Osho had allegedly made and signed around three months before his death. To the astonishment of everyone involved, this will proved to be a forgery. At the time the will was not legally relevant for the decision of the appeal, since the only question in dispute was whether Osho’s name had been rightfully registered as a trademark. However, submission of the forged will does show that OIF is prepared to use any means to establish itself as the heir apparent to Osho’s intellectual property – including the trademark, the copyright and his works of art.
One must ask whether such behavior can be regarded as a proper qualification for preserving Osho’s message in its purest form, “like 24-carat gold.” This is at the very least a highly creative interpretation of the facts. I personally believe that money, power and control are more likely to be the real motives here.
And so now the European Court of Justice has confirmed the ruling of the European Patent Office. This is a decision that I believe to be wrong, because it completely ignores the question of free practice of religion and focuses only on the business aspects of the Osho trademark. To me ‘Osho’ has nothing to do with a brand but with Meditation. That was and still is the very center of his life and teaching.
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