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OshoDeepta and the Current Trademark Crisis

Dear Ones,

    I'm writing this to you as a personal letter of concern about something that has really touched my heart.

Some of you may know that a small group of concerned individuals, operating under the name of Osho Deepta, has brought a legal action to cancel all US trademarks containing "Osho" and to prevent "Osho Active Meditations" frombecoming a trademark. OIF has made certain legal moves that would consolidate the power of seven individuals who are currently aiming to own and control all of Osho's teaching (through their positions as board members of a nonprofit organisation). This would give them the power to judge who they think is representing Osho appropriately, and withdraw the right to use Osho's name from those that do not agree with their views and policies.

In talking with a number of sannyasins about this, I realized that many people have no idea that any of this is going on, and those who do generally have only a vague understanding of the issues involved. So I would like to explain this to them briefly and share why they are important to me.

If after reading this, you want more information, or feel moved outright to support this effort, that would be more than wonderful! Even if this is not something that touches you, you may well know of others who would be interested in knowing about it and in helping out, and I'd appreciate you taking the time to forward it to them. There are many different ways to help.

Why Now?

Because time is a real factor at this point. In the process of doing a deposition for the trademark case last week, I became aware that Ma PremSangeet has put in over a hundred hours of unpaid legal time to do research, prepare the paperwork, and liaise with the various parties involved, all under extreme time pressure and with no small amount of truly bad energy coming her way. Her commitment to this is such that she hasn't had the time to earn enough to cover the fundamentals lately, and right now there is insufficient financial support coming into Deepta to pay her for some of her time, so she can pay even her basic bills, like rent!

This just is not okay with me, and so as her friend, and as someone who deeply believes that what she's standing up for is something that many sannyasins would want to support if they knew what was going on, I ask you to read this with your full attention, and then see if there's something your heart is calling you to do here. Because I know that she can't go on like this much longer

To make things quick and easy to grasp, I'll just lay out the basics as I understand in the form of responses to actual questions that have come up in my recent conversations with people.

What actions has OIF actually taken that you feel violate sannyasins' rights?

OIF is claiming to own Osho's teachings, including his "oral teachings" - not just the copyrighted expression of them but the content of the teachings themselves. Since OIF claims to own the teachings, they feel they can decide who can use them and how. They want to decide who can be an Osho meditation center, who can teach or do the meditations, and to determine if what a sannyasin passes on about Osho is "correct," i.,e., agrees with them.

The way OIF is going about this is to trademark the title "Osho" for the purpose of marketing Osho's work, and then to use this as an excuse to threaten legal action against sannyasins who don't cooperate with them. OIF has been threatening sannyasins with legal actions for several years, including Harideva, the organizer of the Osho2000 Tour. They said that Harideva was not a good enough representative of Osho and put pressure on him to stop using "Osho" in the tour name. Further, they pressured him to remove the name Osho from his website address. Amrito told Harideva that he would be ill-advised to fight OIF, because OIF had $400 per hour. lawyers, and no one could beat them.

Last summer, OIF finally did bring a legal action against Osho World in New Delhi. That is a beautiful center that had been open for several years, but the OIF people got angry when Keerti left Pune and criticized them. So they brought an action to say Osho World couldn't use the internet domain name "Oshoworld," because it violated OIF's trademarks for "Osho." Osho World fought and won, but it was expensive. The only way to stop this kind of legal intimidation and harassment is to cancel the trademarks for Osho. If those aren't cancelled, OIF will continue to threaten people who disagree with them with expensive legal actions.

What's the problem with trademarking the names of the meditations?

The only danger with trademarking the names of the meditations under the law is that people would have to use other names if they want to hold the meditations without OIF's permission. Fortunately, OIF has been turned down by the trademark office on all attempts to trademark the meditations. According to Vatayana, OIF was intending to franchise the meditations, limiting who could use them.

OIF could not legally trademark the meditations themselves, but that wouldn't stop OIF from claiming they had and threatening to sue anyone who held or taught meditations without their permission. The problem is that OIF always seems to claim to own more than it does, and to be willing to threaten legal action to coerce others to do what it wants

What legal actions has Deepta taken thus far, and for what purposes?

Deepta has objected to the registration of "Osho Active Meditations" because it expects OIF to use that registration to try and control the use of all of Osho's active meditations. OIF could possibly start contacting people and saying that they own Osho's active mediations and if anyone uses them without permission they will be sued.

Deepta has also moved to have all trademarks containing "Osho" cancelled, in the hope that if OIF no longer has that excuse, there will be fewer threats of legal intimidation. As long as those trademarks are registered, OIF will have an excuse to sue people, even if OIF doesn't have a decent case.

The unfortunate thing about the legal system is that you have to bear the expense of fighting in order to show that the case against you isn't valid. OIF's general tactic is to throw out a lot of allegations that take time and money to respond to. If anyone fights OIF, the person fighting has a good chance of winning, but how many people have the resources or stomach for it? This has been the way OIF has intimidated and controlled a lot of people.

I don't see why we have to make OIF/the Inner Circle wrong; they're doing the job that Osho gave them to do, as best they can. Just because you don't agree with them, does that mean they're not doing the right thing?

As long as OIF is threatening other sannyasins with lawsuits and bringing legal actions against them to prevent them from expressing Osho in their own way- such as OshoWorld in New Delhi and the Osho2000 tour- we have a problem. No one is saying that OIF can't do its work as it sees fit. The question is, should OIF prevent everyone else from expressing Osho or expressing their gratitude to Osho, and make OIF's work the only work?

Another example: Osho told one swami to write a book in Pune I. He got permission to use quotes from Rajneesh Foundation International at the Ranch, wrote the book, and now OIF says it will sue if he publishes the book. It's unlikely that OIF would win, but who wants to fight? Is this really the work Osho left anyone to do? Neelam and Turiya, two members of the original Inner Circle, don't think so. They are both adamant that Osho did not set up the Inner Circle to legally control or intimidate sannyasins.

Why does all this even matter? We each have our personal relationship with Osho, and what the administration in Pune does doesn't affect that.

It only matters to those who think that the freedom to use the title "Osho" in writing, meditation centers, and for teaching meditation, leadings workshops, etc. is important. It only matters to those who think sannyasins shouldn't be threatened with lawsuits if they choose to use Osho's work in some way or express their understanding of Osho in their own work. If people aren't concerned about that, then the support won't come and the case will have to be dropped. It's really up to all of us to decide if this is important or not.

Sannyasins have always managed to get around the administration to do what needs to be done. Why do we need all these legal proceedings?

Sannyasins have never been faced with threats of lawsuits like this before. We need to get rid of the trademarks to avoid future litigation. As long as the trademarks are registered, they will be used to threaten litigation. This is an opportunity to see, once and for all, what OIF really owns and what OIF really can control. Once that is settled, we can drop the absurdity of threatening lawsuits every other week. The idea of this legal action is to have people come together to do this once, so that individuals don't have to do it over and over again. We do need to come together, though - Deepta can't carry on the process by itself.

What is it that makes you feel that Osho would be supportive of what you are trying to accomplish?

Osho was very strong on the point that He didn't have one successor but that all of us would be His successors. Much of this dispute seems to be about whether there is space for different successors, different interpretations. Osho said clearly (and Anando confirms this) that the inner circle was not meant to be a spiritual body, it is just an administrative body. Now OIF is saying that it owns all the spiritual teachings and can control them and how they are used. That is crossing the line from being a copyright manager to being a church. But the real bottom line is that we can't know what Osho would want unless we happen to be at His level of enlightenment, and even that would be iffy. We don't have Osho here with us now to tell us what to do. We have to do what feels right and trust our own understanding. Second guessing Osho and playing "Osho said" gets bogged down pretty quickly. We have to trust what we have.

What are your actual budget needs?

Deepta anticipates that its financial needs for legal costs will be $15,000 for the six-month period ending October 31. (It is now running a few months behind.) Thank you all for you attention and care.

In honor of Osho, who gave us everything,

Ma Deva Nartana


Osho Deepta
c/o Sangeet Duchane
PO Box 1088Fairfax, CA 94978

See the Deepta website: http://www.OshoDeepta.org