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The Rediff Special/ Nidhi Taparia
Fighting for Osho in cyberspace
The first round in the ugly war that is being fought over Osho's legacy, between the New York-based Osho International Foundation and the Osho Dhyan Mandir, New Delhi, has gone the latter's way.
When Atul Anand of Osho Dhyan Mandir created the Web site oshoworld.com, he could not have expected to be hit with a claim from the New York-based entity, which claimed copyright over the word 'Osho'. But that's exactly what happened. M Kelly Tillery Esquire, arbitrator at the National Arbitration Forum in Minneapolis, USA, however, disallowed the plea and the transfer of the oshoworld.com domain name to OIF.
"This ruling means that Osho Centre leaders around the world can now carry on without any worry about or fear of self-appointed dictators who claim to own everything related to Osho. His vision cannot be fettered, traded or imprisoned by a few for unaccounted purposes," gloated Swami Keerti, ex-spokesperson for Osho Commune, Pune, and now a part of the Osho Dhyan Mandir, which is independent of the commune.
"Those who now run the Osho Commune, who have usurped Osho's legacy from Pune should now be forced to return it to its source -- which is free domain, the hallmark of Osho's spiritual movement. All Osho centres around the world should now demand full accountability and transparency in managing the affairs of the Pune Commune instead of a few running it like a personal fiefdom and taking arbitrary decisions."
The Osho International Foundation has declined to comment on the matter, stating that it was 'sub judice'.
Continues Swami Keerti: "There are 95 sites around the world which use the word Osho in their domain name. But the reason for filing the case against us was to be able to control any information about Osho and also to be able to send out a warning to all the other sanyasis who are involved in spreading Osho's word around and to muzzle the dissent among them."
The battle over the website, incidentally, was fought even before it became operational.
Currently, Osho International Forum, a Swiss corporation registered as a trust, owns the three, federally-registered trademarks. The case had been filed by America Multi Media Corporation doing business as Osho International Foundation, which claimed to be 'a wholly-owned subsidiary, agent, and agreement manager' for the Swiss corporation. The National Arbitration Forum dismissed its claims to the domain name, after finding its evidence to act on behalf of the Swiss trust insubstantial.
The NAF also stated clearly, that the term 'Osho' alone cannot serve as a distinguishing moniker for OIF and/or OIF's goods and services. Also, the absence of any evidence to indicate that Bhagwan Rajneesh (Osho) ever commercially exploited the name or mark 'Osho' during his lifetime or authorised either party or anyone else to utilise his name or mark, reflects that he himself had no concern with intellectual property rights, including any related to the use of his chosen name, the forum ruled.
Even before the website, the Osho Dhyan Mandir had been running a galleria in New Delhi called the 'OshoWorld', but it had not attracted the adverse attention of OIF.
"OIF knew about the centre and its galleria. But the domain name complaint was filed only after Swami Chaitanya Keerti spoke about it in the Indian press," explains Ma Sangeeta, a New York-based lawyer.
Talking on the subject of trademarks, which is also part of the ongoing battle, Ma Sangeeta, said, "The only reason for OIF to file for trademark is to claim monopoly on Osho, certain logos, his signature and his meditations as marketing symbols. This action does not protect Osho's work from changes. Besides, how can you trademark meditations?"
The current status in this battle is that Osho's meditations are not actually trademarked now. While OIF has applied in the US for trademark rights, but it is yet to be approved. The application for trademark on 'Osho Active Meditations' is about to be published for opposition, which means the public can submit objections, while the applications for Nataraj, Nadabrahma, Dynamic, and Gourishankar meditations have not even reached that stage yet. The application for trademark on Kundalini meditation has been abandoned by OIF.
The Swiss corporation's impugned claim vis-à-vis 'oshoworld.com, rests on the premise that it owns 'Osho', since it has trademarked the word for the purpose of marketing certain limited products.
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