OSHO SHOWS TRADEMARKS AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AT THEIR BEST In a widely applauded decision, the National Arbitration Forum denied a complaint from Osho International Foundation (OIF) , in which OIF requested that the domain name OSHOWORLD.COM be transferred from Osho Dhyan Mandir, (a meditation center in New Delhi) to OIF. Despite the fact that OIF holds multiple trademark registrations for the name OSHO, the arbitrator found that OIF has no rights in the name OSHO, while Osho Dhyan Mandir has rights in both OSHO and OSHOWORLD.COM.
The decision is an important victory for freedom of expression. The arbitrator stated that granting OIF’s request to strip the operators of OSHOWORLD.COM of the right to use the name “would be as improper as doing the same with Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shintoism or any of the several hundred other of the world’s religions and/or spiritual movements.” The arbitrator also asserted that Osho Dhyan Mandir’s use of OSHOWORLD.COM was protected by the United States Constitution, the Constitution of India, and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The decision is also important because it demonstrates that trademark law can and should be applied to the Internet. OIF claimed that its trademark registrations gave it exclusive rights to use the name OSHO on the Internet. The evidence, however, clearly showed that OSHO did not serve as a source indicator for OIF.
Instead, people widely understand OSHO to refer to Osho, the man, and his spiritual movement. Because the purpose of a trademark is to act as a source indicator, and OSHO does not indicate OIF as the source of anything, the arbitrator stated that OIF does not have exclusive rights in the name OSHO, despite its trademark registrations.
The decision reaffirms that when an alleged trademark fails to serve as a source identifier, it is available for use by everyone, and that no one can claim exclusive rights in it.”This is a victory for freedom of speech and religion and will prevent the monopolization on the Internet by those wishing to ‘own’ the names of religions and teachers,” said MARK I. FELDMAN of PIPER MARBURY RUDNICK & WOLFE, the lawyer for OSHOWORLD.COM.
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