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

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