Indian Express, August 2, 2000
PUNE, AUGUST 1: While the imbroglio over the copyright issue of mystic Osho’s intellectual property rights continues to simmer, the ”rebels” have won the first round with the US-based National Arbitration Forum refusing to entertain a plea by the Osho International Foundation, New York (OIF-NY), not to allow New Delhi-based Osho Dhyan Mandir to have a website called ”oshoworld.com” since it has the word ”Osho.”
Forum panelist M Kelly Tillery in his decision delivered on Monday afternoon (US time) ruled that ”to grant complainant’s request for relief would be to permit virtual monopolisation on the Internet by complainant of any domain name which includes the name of a great spiritual teacher and leader.”
”Truth has to win. Only truth will win. Satyamev Jayate,” said Swami Chaitanya Keerti, spokesperson for Osho commune in Pune till early this year who now has turned a rebel and has joined the Osho Dhyan Mandir in New Delhi. In an e-mail message to The Indian Express, Keerti says, ”This was my first heartfelt reaction when I received a phone call from USA at 2 am on Tuesday I was informed that the domain name oshoworld.com can be retained by Osho Dhyan Mandir.”
”The decision means we should build up more pressure on these people who have usurped Osho’s legacy away from Pune and force them to return it to its source – which is Pune, the global capital 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.” Keerti added.
The New York-based foundation contended that the Osho Dhyan Mandir’s intention to open the website, Oshoworld.com was ”in bad faith,” that the mandir has ”intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion with complainant’s trademarks and service marks as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of respondent’s website.”
Panelist Tillery, however, rejected the contention and said, ”While making no judgment on the relative merits or validity of the worlds religions or spiritual movements or any leader thereof, this arbitrator finds that permitting this would be as improper as doing the same with Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Zorastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shintoism or any of the several hundred other of the worlds religions and/or spiritual movements.”
The OIF, New York, submitted a complaint to the National Arbitration Forum in the USA on June 7. On June 12, the forum asked the respondent Osho Dhyan Mandir of New Delhi to file a response by July 5.
Arguing that the Dhyan Mandir’s registered domain name oshoworld.com is confusingly similar to its own registered trademarks for ”Osho” and to the three websites operated by it, namely osho.com, osho.org and osho.net, the NY-based foundation wanted the domain name (that is oshoworld.com) be transferred from the Dhyan Mandir to them.
Osho Dhyan Mandir in its response argued that the claim made by the OIF-NY was ”a case of a commercial entity trying to exercise monopoly of the name Osho,” the well-known Indian spiritual mystic ”with hundreds of thousands of followers” and that the mandir, a non-profit, charitable Indian corporation operates the web site oshoworld.com ”for the good faith purpose of discussing the teachings of Osho.”
Panelist Tillery in his ruling even questined the locus standi of the NY-based foundation in filing a complaint and raised ”a serious doubt as to whether the complainant has rights in such a trademark or service mark because the purported mark does not and cannot serve a trademark purpose.”
The arbitrator said he was ”troubled by complainant’s identification.” First it introduced itself as Osho International Foundation, a Swiss Corporation, which owns three federally-registered trademarks. ”Only after the respondent claimed that complainant was not OIF, did complainant submit an affidavit stating that complainant is in fact not the Swiss Corporation listed as the owner of said marks, but a New York corporation, America Multi Media Corporation d/b/a Osho International Foundation, purportedly a wholly-owned subsidiary, agent and agreement manager for OIF. Complainant appears to be a New York for profit entity. The evidence of complainant’s authority to act on behalf of OIF is… not sufficient to prove that complainant has rights in any marks at issue here.”
The arbitrator observed that, ”There is no evidence that Bhagman Shree Rajneesh (Osho) ever commercially exploited the name or mark ”OSHO” during his natural life (while still in his body) or that he or his estate, if one was ever established, ever authorised either party or any one else to utilise his name or mark. The first use at all of Osho appears to have been by this spiritual leader himself in 1989 and he died (or left his body) in 1990. Though he has said, ”It is not my name, it is a healing sound,” it appears that the parties, several national trademark offices and many others have and continue to use same as a name and a mark. The record also reflects that Osho himself had little regard for or concern with intellectual property rights, including any related to the use of his chosen name.”
On the other hand, he points out, ”the respondent has produced credible evidence, not disputed by complainant, that almost 500 meditation centers around the world, not affiliated with complainant, operate utilising the Osho name.”
”The evidence establishes that respondents have real and substantial legitimate interests in respect of the domain name in question….There is no credible evidence of record to establish that respondent has intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, internet users to its website or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with complainant’s mark as to source, sponsorship affiliation or endorsement of its website or location of a product or service on its website or location.”
Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.