Transcendental Meditation

meditationThe Maharishi Vedic University Ltd. submitted Israel TM Application No. 249554 for מדיטציה טרנסנדנטלית  which is Transcendental Meditation transliterated into Hebrew. The mark was submitted on 21 September 2012 and covers:

Education services relating to health; conducting of courses relating to business management; production of video tapes for corporate use in management educational training; providing training courses on business management; provision of instruction courses in general management; conducting workshops and seminars in personal awareness educational services, namely, providing motivational and educational speakers in the field of self and personal improvement; personal development courses; personal development training; provision of training courses in personal development; meditation training; teaching of meditation practices; all included in class 41.

The mark is a simple word mark without stylistic or graphic elements.

Background

MaharashiTranscendental Meditation is a technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918–2008) derived Transcendental Meditation from the ancient Vedic tradition of India. He brought the technique to the U.S. in the 1960s. The technique is a specific form of silent mantra meditation that is often referred to as TM. Since TM also stands for trademark I considered relating to TMTM for the Transcendental Meditation Trade Mark, TMTMA for the Transcendental Meditation Trade Mark Application, but have decided not to use the abbreviation altogether.

In an Office Action dated 9 February 2015, the trademark examiner ruled that the mark could not be registered as with respect to the services covered, it lacked a distinguishing character as required by Section 8(a) of the Trademark Ordinance 1972.  The Examiner also considers that the requested mark is not registerable since it is descriptive and directly relates to the type or quality of the services provided which are transcendental meditation exercises and the training of transcendental meditation counselors contrary to Section 10(11).

maharishi bookIn the Office Action, the Examiner noted that the organization teaching the transcendental meditation is called that International Meditation Association and that hundreds of schools around the world use the technique. Consequently, one cannot allow the Applicant to monopolize the words making up the mark and thereby prevent other service providers from passing on and teaching the Maharishi’s teachings.

In response to these objections, on 30 December 2015 the Applicant responded by submitting an Affidavit of Adv. Macraman Oleh Oyser who is the general manager of the Maharishi Vedic University Ltd., a teacher of Transcendental Meditation and the head of the Legal Department of the that Global Transcendental Meditation Organization, and the worldwide IP manager of the Applicant.

In their response, the Applicant claimed that the mark was not descriptive of the services provided and maximally may be considered as hinting at the services. Similarly, they claimed that the phrase Transcendental Meditation was a combination of words that is identified with the Applicant and only with them, since the combination was coined by the Maharishi who established the Maharishi Vedic University Ltd.

The Applicant further asserted that the Global Transcendental Meditation Organization and all its branches was established by the followers of the Maharishi which the Applicant is associated with and is part of the same organizational structure as the Applicant. To support this assertion, the Applicant referred to exhibition 2 of Adv. Oyser’s Affidavit, where the definition of Transcendental Meditation taken from the Oxford Dictionary Online was reproduced.

In addition, the Applicant claimed that the mark was in use in Israel since 1973 and had acquired distinction by virtue of extensive usage, advertising and marketing in Israel and abroad. The Applicant considers that that the mark has become a well known mark that is identified with them alone. Similarly, in the years 2009 to 2014 since the application was filed, the Applicant has earned $874,000 from its activities in Israel. These assertions were supported by Adv. Oyser’s Affidavit.

The Applicant failed to convince the Examiner that the mark was registerable and the Trademark Office rejected the mark on 28 January 2016.

yogic fliersOn 2 May 2016, a hearing was held before the then Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks Asa Kling at the Applicant’s request. During the Hearing, the Applicant’s representative argued that the mark was unique and was a compound mark consisting of the combination of two opposites: meditation which is inward looking, and transcendental which is outward looking into the distance. During the hearing, the Applicant also claimed that the registration was requested to avoid misleading the relevant public interested in studying Transcendental Meditation, noting that the Applicant was one of the bodies authorized to train of Transcendental Meditation counselors and this would enable quality control which is an underlying justification of the trademark system.

In that hearing, the Commissioner requested that the transfer of rights from the Maharishi himself to the Applicant be fully documented and substantiated by the 14 August 2016.

On 14 August 2016 the Applicant submitted supplementary evidence including an affidavit of Neal Peterson who was the manager of the Maharishi Vedic University Ltd. the following is the transfer of rights as detailed in the Affidavit:

Maharishi started to teach meditation in 1954 in Southern India, and on 1 January 1958 he established the Spiritual Regeneration Movement SRM in one of India’s capitals. In time, the Maharishi opened 1000s of SRM centers across India where he taught Transcendental Meditation.

meditation profitAfter conducting travels to disseminate his teachings across Asia, in 1959 the Maharashi taught in New York and London and set up the International Meditation Society whilst in London. As he visited more countries, the Maharashi established more local organizations to spread the teachings and to collect tuition fees.

As stated, the first organizations were established under the names SRM or IMS and subsequently these names were less widely used and the movement became better known as GTMO or the Maharishi Movement.

In the early Sixties, Maharishi opened a program for training teachers of the Meditation method under the name Transcendental Meditation. The program is offered by organizations licensed by the GTMO leadership.

To ensure the exclusive connection between the name Transcendental Meditation and the Maharishi Movement and to ensure quality, prior to being accepted to the Transcendental Meditation Counselor Course, the students are required to sign a number of papers in the presence of the Applicant. These include Non-Disclosure and Non-Compete Agreements.

To explain how the rights were transferred from the GTMO to the Applicant, the Deputy Commissioner Ms Jacqueline Bracha referred to the ruling concerning Israel Trademark Applications 29619 and 253899 to the Maharishi Vedic University Ltd. published on 30 October 2017. In that ruling the mark MAHARISHI in English and Hebrew was considered. There, in an ex partes decision, Ms Bracha ruled that the marks could be registered after the Applicant proved that they were the only party using the name MAHARISHI as a trademark to indicate their services.

RULING

Section 8 of the Ordinance states that the basic condition for trademarks to be registerable is that they have a distinguishing nature, as follows:

Marks Eligible for Registration

8.—(a) No mark is eligible for registration as a trade mark unless it is adapted to distinguish the goods of the proprietor of the mark from those of other persons (a mark so adapted being hereinafter referred to as a “distinctive mark”).

(b) In determining whether a trade mark is distinctive, the Registrar or the Court may, in the case of a trade mark in actual use, take into consideration the extent to which such use has rendered such trade mark in fact distinctive for goods in respect of which it is registered or intended to be registered.

Section 11(10) of the Ordinance describes one of the categories of marks that is not considered as having a distinguishing nature.

(10) a mark consisting of numerals, letters or words which are in common use in trade to distinguish or describe goods or classes of goods or which bear direct reference to their character or quality, unless the mark has a distinctive character within the meaning of section 8(b) or 9;

The evidence appended to the Application indicates that the term Meditation relates to an ancient tradition that is in element of many religions.

“Meditation has been practiced since antiquity as a component of numerous religious traditions.”

In paragraph 13 of Adv. Oyser relates to Transcendental Meditation as Mantra Meditation that indicates holy sounds or the names of God. In Hinduism and Buddhism the practitioner of Mantra Meditation attempts to unify himself with the God.

Similarly, in the same section of definitions, the Applicant explains that the source of Transcendental Meditation is the Guru Dev and that according to Maharishi this is a development of Vedic writings and old books that are adapted for the modern world.

Furthermore, as part of their evidence submitted for registering 29619 and 253899 for the mark MAHARISHI in English and Hebrew, the Applicant submitted an Affidavit by Alexander Oded Kotai who is the Israel Director of the that International Meditation Association Israel, of the Maharashi International School and of the Israel Institute of the Science of Creative Intelligence. In the framework of his Affidavit, he also explains what Transcendental Meditation is, and in paragraph 21 states that:

Thus Transcendental Meditation is the name chosen by Maharishi to indicate and mark the meditation technique that he learned from Guru Dev and developed in India in the fifties. Maharishi developed the technique and adapted it for the modern world, and attributed it to his spiritual mentor, Guru Dev. Maharishi explained that the technique is a revelation of the principles found in Vedic writings, which is a collection of religious texts considered the oldest in Hinduism. According to Maharishi the Vedic writings have been misunderstood in the past hundreds of years. Maharishi teaches that Vede is knowledge of the science of awareness, and according to this science there is an awareness of the formation of the material of the universe.

Atharva-Veda_samhita_page_471_illustration-56a483c15f9b58b7d0d75d06From this it appears that the basis of Transcendental Meditation is found in the Buddhist religion and Transcendental Meditation is the Maharishi’s interpretation of Vedic literature. Nevertheless, the requested mark does not appear in the ancient Vedic literature. We are dealing with a phrase that the Maharishi coined for the technique he developed.  Adv. Oyser states this explicitly. Neal Peterson states that in when he started out in Southern India in 1954, Maharishi called this Transcendental Deep Meditation and shortened this to Transcendental Meditation as the years went by.

This raises the question of whether this is enough for the Applicant to be granted a trademark of whether it should be left open to the public for reasons of public interest.

Section 11(5) of the Trademark Ordinance excludes from registration:

(5) a mark which is or may be injurious to public policy or morality;

In this regard, see paragraph 46 of the Ruling concerning Israel Trademark Applications IL 232770 and 232271 for Lubavitch (English letters) and for Chabad (in Hebrew and English)  from 2 May 2016:

The purpose of the Ordinance is not to limit freedom of speech or freedom of religion –  Section 11(5) of the Ordinance does not allow registration of marks that adversely affect the public order.

The conclusion that Maharishi (who transferred his rights to the Applicant as described above), coined the term Transcendental Meditation which is the applied for mark, but this does no give the Applicant the right to register the mark. In this regard one may compare copyright with trademark law as per Neil Wilkof and Shamnad Basheer in their book “Overlapping Intellectual Property Rights”  2012) page 148, which relates to R Griggs Group Ltd and others v. Ross Evans and others ECDR 15,para 20 [2004]:

“…copyright is intended to protect creative skill and labour whereas the function of trademarks is to distinguish the goods or services of one provider from those of another. Trade mark law he said ‘has nothing to do with protecting any creative skill and labour in coming up with a trade mark, rather it is meant to prevent potential confusion among members of public.”

The Applicant claims that the purpose of the trademark registration is to protect the public from unregulated teaching of the technique since the technique relates to the mental health of the patient and there is thus a danger that it being applied by someone not qualified will damage the patient’s wellbeing. This is clear from the protocol of the discussion.

FreudIt is noted however, that the list of services for which the trademark is applied for does NOT include mental health, presumably since treatment of mental issues requires an appropriate education and license from the Israel Ministry of Health. It is noted that the services defined as ‘educational services relating to health’ are related to the psychology profession and is regulated by the Law for Psychologists 1977 which defines Psychology as

Working in Psychology is a profession related to diagnosing and quantifying issues and problems of mental health education and behavior of people and the treatment, rehabilitation, consultancy and training related to these issues and problems is generally to be performed by psychologists.

Since it is unreasonable to register the mark, Ms Bracha did not seem fit to rule on whether this service should be allowed. It is brought merely to discredit the claim that the mark should be registerable since it relates to mental health and is in the public interest that its counselors are licensed by Maharishi Vedic University Ltd.

Transcendental Meditation is a process that anyone can learn and teach and this does not require the agreement of the inventor or creator of the technique. Consequently, the technique must remain available for anyone to learn and teach. It is not fitting to prevent the public from expounding a meditation technique. Even if there is a contractual arrangement that prevents a person from spreading the technique he has learned, it is not clear that the limitation would be enforced by the relevant legal authorities.

In this regard, the words of then Deputy Commissioner Noach Shalev Shmulovich in paragraphs 29and 30, of the Trademark Ruling concerning Israel Application No. 178707 Ori King vs. Adi Shanan I.P.E.C.

I am not certain that one can protect a method of treatment, even temporarily when those that developed it are teaching and disseminating it, since there is no trade secret here. One cannot register a patent for a method of treatment. Although there may be copyright on educational materials, this does not extend to the technique itself or and the right to provide treatments or to teach others. That as may be, one cannot register a trademark to provide protection for a method of treatment by virtue of the registration.

Furthermore, the claim made before me that the application odes not deal with the trademark protecting the method, but only its teaching and dissemination, lacks substance. Where the technique is available to the public its teaching should be available to the public, unless the law provides some limitation, however, the way to provide a monopoly on the technique is not via the trademark register, since registration cannot be used to protect the technique.

Albert_Einstein_Head.jpgIn a similar manner, it appears that if the Hebrew University had tried to register a trademark for “Relativity”, it would be rejected. [MF – The Hebrew University holds the Einstein Archives and owns the name Einstein as a trademark which they license as a source of income.]. One also cannot register Transcendental Idealism as a trademark for an institute teaching Kantean Philosophy. Teaching that doctrine also requires some sort of agreement since one cannot say that everyone is capable of understanding this and teaching others.

The question that arises is whether a coined phrase for a philosophical or religious teaching, such as the application in question which combines transcendental and meditation, that arguably can obtain copyright protection, should be protected under trade laws.

anne frankThe beginning of an answer to this question is found in decisions that relate to names of creations. In a decision given by the court of appeal of the OHIM as it was known, and is now known as the EUIPO, relating to a trademark for “Le Journal d’Anne Frank”, inter alia, for books and newspapers, theatre productions, video tapes and fims on electronic media. See Re 2401/2014-4  Anne Frank Fonds (31.08.2015).

The Court of Appeals considered that the mark does not lack a distinguishing nature with regards to the goods and that the public can use the mark to differentiate between goods and services originating with the mark holder and those originating elsewhere. Furthermore, the European tribunal considered that the wide publicity of the mark as the name of the book was insufficient to prevent it being registered.

As noted in the decision regarding the Opposition to Israel Trademark Application No. 247693 for DEMART PRO ARTE B.V and Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali vs. V.S. Marketing (Israel 2005) ltd. (31 May 2016) it appears that the European ruling does not sit well with the US Law, nor with the Israel Law regarding registering the names of creative works as trademarks. Seligsohn related to this in his magnum opus Trademark Laws and Related Legislation, Shocken 1973, page 7:

“Regarding Goods”… a trademark cannot exist where a symbol relates substantively or technically with trade. The title of a book cannot be a trademark where there is a link between the title and the content of the book such that the title indicates it content and character.

In a similar matter, the US Supreme Court refused to accept a tort of Passing Off or misleading regarding the origins of a product where a television series was based on a book whose copyright had terminated after ruling that passing off under the Lanham Act was not intended to protect original creations and this was different from copyright. See re Dastar v. Twentieth Century Fox Film 539 US at 37 (2003).

Basheer and Wilcoff relate to this on page 155 of their book:

“…in its decision, the Supreme Court went further, holding that the US trademark laws ‘were not designed to protect originality and creativity and that to hold otherwise would be akin to finding that §43(a) [of the Lanham Act] created a species of perpetual patent and copyright, which congress may not do‘”.

Similar to the US Law, in Israel the protection granted by Copyright Law is given for a limited period, whereas trademarks may be renewed indefinitely. Consequently, prior to allowing a trademark to be registered, one has to balance between the rights of the author and the public good. See page 144 of Basheer and Wilcoff:

“Copyright subsists for a finite period, after which the work falls into the public domain where it can be used by anyone without attribution of authorship, whereas trademark rights can endure for as long as the indicia are used and associated with the owner’s offerings- potentially hundreds of years or more.”

As stated in her decision of 30 October 2017 regarding the registration of the name Maharashi in Israel, Ms Bracha noted that the Maharishi Foundation Limited had splintered from the Applicant’s organization and had given up on registering “Maharishi” in Hebrew or English but still taught the Transcendental Meditation discipline in various territories around the world. She did not think that it was correct to limit the teaching to one organization or another by trademark registration.

Furthermore, one cannot ignore the fact that a registration for Transcendental Meditation Programs exists in Israel TM No. 47738 that was submitted on 17 April 1979 by the Applicant. Without relating to whether this mark should have been registered back then, it is noted that the evidence submitted by the Applicant indicates that the International Association for Transcendental Meditation Israel, which is the local representative in Israel, markets and publicizes their services under a stylized mark that includes the registered trademark “Transcendental Meditation Programs”. It seems therefore that that the mark cannot be registered in Israel without appropriate regulation.

Israel Trademark Application No. 249554 is thus refused.

Ruling by Ms Bracha re Israel Trademark Application Number 249554 for “Transcendental Meditation”, 20 December 2017.

COMMENT

The former Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogue and Peer of the Realm Dr Jonathan Sacks has a joke that appears in Not In Heaven:

Beatles and MaharishiWhen I was a student at university in the late 1960s – the era of student protests, psychedelic drugs, and the Beatles meditating with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – a story went the rounds. An American Jewish woman in her sixties travelled to north India to see a celebrated guru. There were huge crowds waiting to see the holy man, but she pushed through, saying that she needed to see him urgently. Eventually, after weaving through the swaying throng, she entered the tent and stood in the presence of the master himself. What she said that day has entered the realm of legend. She said, “Marvin, listen to your mother. Enough already. Come home.” 

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