Splinter OTO Groups Can No Longer Call Themselves “OTO”

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 19, 2008 — 10 Comments

The Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), an esoteric fraternal order which is perhaps best known for its associations with former leader and primary ritualist/liturgist Aleister Crowley, has recently achieved two major legal victories. The more important of the two regards trademark control over the terms “OTO” and “O.T.O.” in the UK.

“I am happy to report that OTO has prevailed against Starfire Publishing Ltd.’s opposition to our trademarks for “OTO” and “O.T.O.” in the United Kingdom. In her decision of June 8, Anna Carbone, the Appointed Person hearing OTO’s appeal, found in favor of OTO, overturning a previous decision in favor of Starfire. OTO’s registrations of the marks “OTO” and “O.T.O.” are now proceeding normally in the UK, joining our previous registrations of “Ordo Templi Orientis” and the OTO Lamen. Under UK law, there can be no further appeal of a decision by an Appointed Person, in either the Trademark Registry or High Court.”

What does this decision mean? Joined with the international order’s trademark control in the United States (and the rest of the world), it means that a variety of splinter groups using the term “OTO” (or variations thereof) must now cease or risk legal action. The OTO’s official press release specifically names British occultist Kenneth Grant’s “Typhonian” Ordo Templi Orientis in its warning to groups started by expelled or resigned members.

“This litigation was not one we initiated — these were proceedings brought against us by Starfire acting on behalf of Kenneth Grant’s spurious OTO organization, with support from organizations led or founded by other expelled or resigned OTO members, such as Albion OTO and OTO Foundation. These groups would be well advised to find another name. We were merely filing a routine maintenance trademark. Now, having provoked us, they can reasonably expect enforcement proceedings from us if they do not stop appropriating our name, initials and lamen.”

Since judges have ruled that “OTO” is the name of a private organization, and not a descriptive term for a religion, these groups will have to follow in the footsteps of other fraternal organizations and pick news names.

The second decision (actually a settlement), this time in America, also reinforced the main OTO body’s control over its assets and intellectual property. Specifically, the images of Crowley’s Thoth tarot deck.

“OTO filed suit in US Federal Court in Southern California against Focus Features, NBC Universal and Vivendi for copyright infringement in connection with the appropriation of images from the Thoth Tarot cards to promote the Woody Allen film “Scoop,” where they were used on the poster, DVD packaging and in the press kits. The case has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. Under the terms of the agreement, the details of the settlement are confidential. This was a significant legal case, since OTO took on the world’s largest media conglomerate, represented by the best law firm in Hollywood. We have long taken on corporations many times our size before, e.g. Simon and Schuster, Doubleday and Harper and Row, but NBC Universal Vivendi is many, many times larger and more powerful than all these combined.”

These cases reinforce the fact that O.T.O. Worldwide is not only in complete control of its name and image, but it has also proved that it has the muscle and will to defend its claims. It would be virtually impossible at this point for another organization to legally claim rights to the “OTO” name or legacy. So would-be “true” OTO orders beware, a lawyer might soon be giving you a visit.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Jordan Stratford+

    The Caliphate, est. 1980, is the new Scientology. Shameful and sad.

  • Jennifer

    GMTA Jordan, I was going to say the same thing. They’ve just moved from sorta-cool esoteric group to full-fledged litigious cult.(Where, oh where, did I leave that mask?)

  • Al

    It is a little older than 1980. There are direct antecedent groups with many of the same people in the 1970s.I don’t see it as shameful and sad at all and I’m an ex-OTO member. The “Caliphate” OTO is clearly the leader in the OTO race. I suppose that if any of the other claimants actually did anything or published (Grant’s vanity publishing doesn’t count), I might be more impressed with them.

  • Anonymous

    93! Comparing the Caliphate with Scientology is a pretty stupid thing to do… I’ll sue you for that 😉

  • Jordan Stratford+

    You’re right, it wasn’t 1980, it was 1977. My mistake. Point is, the Typhonion OTO is older and has more direct legitimacy than the Caliphate, and the Caliphate is trying to sue the Kenneth Grant organization out of existence.For all of its “elitist” blather, the main argument in the case is all about “the average consumer”. Is the “average consumer” going to know the difference between a California corporation and a UK religious organization when they use the same symbols and name? That the Calphate would even take this to court should embarrass them.The other argument the COTO is making is that AC didn’t own his books, the bankruptcy trustee did, and COTO bought the copyrights from the trustee. COTO also argues that Crowley’s last will and testament (citing Grant et al) is invalid because the Caliphate says AC was mentally unfit.”He was a crazy bankrupt, so don’t listen to him, but buy our editions of his books!”Wait til the kids in the lower triads find out that the manuscript of Liber Al and AC’s ring have been auctioned off in order to pay for the lawyers…

  • Al

    I’ve never bought Kenneth Grant’s claims to be heir of much at all.The fact of the matter is that I know people who worked in the Typhonian OTO over the years. Grant is bugfuck crazy and that organization isn’t actually a real organization. It has no by-laws, no structure, and does no real work. It is simply a personality cult around Grant and acts as a legitimizer for him when he publishes his books. At various points, there have been other members (until he throws them out) but never any other leaders. It is a real OTO the way that Soviet Union was a real worker’s paradise…The OTO has problems but at least it has by-laws, is legally incorporated, and has working internal structures. I’ve had two friends on the Areopagus (at least one of whom is still there) and I know quite a few people that have been there since 1977 (and in the precursor organizations that led rise to it in California that you don’t mention). Does the OTO have its share of problems? Sure. That doesn’t change the fact that it is an *actual* organization that functions and has at least a couple of thousand members. It has bodies in many many cities (where are the Typhonian bodies?) and has people engaging in a variety of works (where are the Typhonian works outside of Grant’s books?).So, even though I am no longer a member, I go by the facts on the ground. The facts on the ground are that there is one functioning, in the sense of being an actual fraternal order as Crowley intended, OTO in the world. The fact that it is a bit sue happy about its name and trademarks or is willing to play legal shenanigans to enforce them, doesn’t change that. When the other claimants can organize in many cities, creating a functional organization with members, annual meetings, newsletters (local and national) and all the various other things that the OTO does, I might take their claims slightly more seriously…

  • Tau Thomas

    These folks really do remind me more and more of Scientologists.”Sue who thou wilt shall be the whole of the law…” Occult of Personality’s got a great interview with +Allen Greenfield at http://www.occultofpersonality.com/2007/12/20/podcast-35-an-inquiry-into-suppressed-information/

  • I wonder what this means for future printings of the Thoth Tarot, since as of today — 01-17-2009 — it appears to be out of print and out of stock at many stores in the US. Do you know if that’s an outgrowth of this lawsuit? Apparently US Games Systems, Inc. isn’t volunteering any information about its future availability. It’s certainly news, since that deck has been continuously in print for so long, until now.

  • Lovecaft

    Regarding Grant: Cthulhu mythos! How can anyone take him seriously?

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