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It's only a brand-Sangeet
Posted by owp    Monday, October 30, 2017 at 13:24
A court in the European Union recently upheld rulings of lower tribunals (not courts) that had allowed OSHO as a trademark for OIF in the EU only. Sangeet explains the implications and preceding events, which are of high interest to all.

In arguing for this approval, OIF claimed that OSHO has nothing to do with meditation, it is just a brand.

While many of us are offended by the underlying sentiment of this, from a purely legal point of view, OIF is correct. And let us rejoice that they are right and that they have admitted this on the record. The trademark approval means that OIF can use OSHO as a brand for goods and services that OIF owns or legally controls. A trademark has nothing to do with meditation or the teachings of a spiritual master, as OIF has admitted.

So, the question is, what does OIF own or control? Does this decision mean that OIF owns Osho’s intellectual rights, such as copyrights?

Of course not. Does anyone seriously think that if a company has a brand that uses the name of a historical person like George Washington, Nelson Mandela, or Winston Churchill they somehow magically own the property of that person? Does the owner of a George Washington Savings and Loan brand magically own Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s residence? Of course not. This is just a brand; it has nothing to do with ownership of any kind of property of any historical person.

Was the ownership of Osho’s copyrights discussed in the case? Yes, it was, in the context of deciding if the name of a spiritual leader could be a TM. Did the trademark tribunal have jurisdiction to rule on copyright ownership? No, it didn’t. It was a glorified government office with jurisdiction over trademarks, not a court.

In fact, the process of the trademark proceedings weakened any legal claim OIF might have to copyright ownership. OIF has used three separate and contradictory arguments as to why it claims to own the copyrights. The first attempt was to claim that Osho signed the rights directly over to RFI, the US organization controlled by Sheela. But there were no original documents to prove this and no living person who could authenticate photocopies.

So, OIF came up with a new story. The new story was that Osho hadn’t signed over rights to RFI, as OIF had claimed for years. They now claimed Osho had signed a power of attorney giving Sheela the power to transfer rights, and she transferred them to RFI. But OIF didn’t have originals of these alleged documents either. So, they brought in Philip Toelkes (Niren), who testified that his memory of documents created 30+ years ago was so exact that he could verify these photocopies – which could easily have been tampered with – were exact copies of the original documents. OIF’s opponents naturally challenged this claim.

In an attempt to issue a coup de grâce on the ownership issues, OIF then introduced an alleged will of Osho. Toelkes again came in to testify. He claimed that, though he was not licensed to practice law in India and did not know Indian law, he had drafted the will for Osho and could testify that Michael O’Byrne (Jayesh) and John Andrews (Amrito) had witnessed Osho’s signature.

The will was submitted to forensic experts, and four experts to date have found that the “signature” on the “will” is an exact copy of a signature found on the cover of an Osho book from the 1970s. No two signatures of any living person are ever exactly the same, yet these are exactly the same, meaning the signature is forged. Further, we all know that Osho’s signature changed over time. In the physical weakness of his last months, his signature was very different than it had been in the 1970s. In short, the “will” was found by the experts to be a pretty blatant forgery.

OIF quickly withdrew the will. When a police inquiry in India ordered OIF to produce the original of the will, Mukesh Sarda testified that Nirvano (formerly Vivek) had destroyed the original. Those of us who were in Pune at the time and living and working in Lao Tzu know that Nirvano did not have access to documents relating to Osho at that time. But even if that story was in any way credible, Nirvano died before Osho, and if she had destroyed the will, they would simply have had Osho sign another.

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