On this page we cover two of the major legal issues which are of interest for the Free Zone as the Church of Scientology regularly tries to harrass people who try to deliver Scientology in the Free Zone in these areas. There is one article on trademarks and another on the subject of who owns the copyrights of the works of LRH. Additionally we cast a light on the question of ‘is it really LRH’ (which always plays a role in materials dating from the second half of the 70s or later) by supplying a voice analysis of different audio ressources that clearly show that Ron’s Journal 36 was a forged message which not really stemmed from L.Ron Hubbard but was made up by top management to cover their activities during the take-over in the early 1980s.
Victory in Alicante! – Legal battle about the trademark “Ron`s Org”
The name “Ron’s Org” has been in use since the founding of the network by Captain Bill Robertson in 1984 in many countries. This gives the people and groups involved already a legal claim to the name “Ron’s Org”. However to prevent any misuse of the name by the Church of Scientology or any related entity, in February 2004 Otfried Krumpholz, acting as a sort of trustee for the Ron’s Org Committee, filed an application to register the word mark “Ron’s Org” with the OHIM, the Office of the Harmonization of the Internal Market, which is the trademark office for the European Union.
When the trademark was accepted and published by the OHIM, the RTC, being officially the watchdogs for the protection of the trademarks of Scientology, filed an opposition, claiming they had prior rights to the marks “L.Ron Hubbard” as well as a picture mark which is supposed to represent “Ron”.
Both marks are registered in many countries of the European Union and would, if they were indeed “confusingly similar” to the applied for mark “Ron’s Org”, bar its registration with the OHIM.
I. First round: the Opposition Procedure
After two years of a drawn-out legal battle, the OHIM served his decision in the opposition procedure. The opposition was rejected in its entirety. The important parts of the decision read as follows:
“In determining the existence of likelihood of confusion, trade marks have to be compared by making an overall assessment of the visual, phonetic and conceptual similarities between the marks.
“A visual comparison of the first two trade marks “L.RONALD HUBBARD” and “L.RON HUBBARD” with the CTM [Community Trade Mark] application shows that the marks are dissimilar. The word “Ron” of the CTM application is identical to the second word in the second mark and is included in the second word in the first mark. However, there are also some considerable differences between the marks; the earlier two marks start with the letter “L dot” and contain the family name “Hubbard”…On the other hand, the “s” and the word “Org” are not shared by the first two earlier marks…From a visual point of view, the marks are dissimilar.
“When comparing the third earlier mark with the CTM application, the Office finds them also dissimilar, this especially as it has doubts whether the consumer would perceive this earlier mark as being the word “Ron”. It is written in such a fanciful almost illegible handwritten typeface, in the form of a signature, that it is not clear at all. The Office is of the opinion that this earlier mark would at its best be perceived as being “Lou” or “Lon”. The marks are visually different, as the earlier mark is a fanciful figurative device, composed of one word, likely to be the word “Lou”, while the CTM application contains two words, an apostrophe and the element “Org” and is a word mark written in normal capital letters…
“Phonetically, the first two earlier marks would be pronounced as /l/ /ro/ /nald/ /hub/ /bard/ or /l/ /ron/ /hub/ /bard/, being thus composed of five or four syllables, while the CTM application has only two /Rons/ /Org/. Even the entire first syllable of the contested application can not be found in the first earlier mark and in the second mark the second word is pronounced as /ron/ and not as /rons/.The addition of all these extra syllables in the two earlier marks gives the marks a different rhythm and intonation. When comparing the third earlier mark with the CTM application, the Office also finds them dissimilar, this because the earlier mark likely to be perceived as being “Lou” or “Lon” and pronounced in one syllable… Therefore the marks are, from a phonetic point of view, dissimilar.
“Finally, from a conceptual point of view, in the European Union, the first two marks will be perceived as the initial of an unknown first name, starting with the letter “L”, the first name “Ronald” or “Ron” and the family name “Hubbard”. On the other hand the CTM application is perceived as being the organization of a man called “Ron”. It might be that by some consumers the words will not be understood and perceived as invented words. In this case no conceptual link can be established. The third earlier mark is a first name for a male “Lou” (or a woman’s name in France) and the contested application is composed of a first name for a man “Ron”… and the abbreviation for “organization”. The marks are therefore conceptually dissimilar.
“Regarding the opponent’s argument that “Ron” is the name of the well-known founder of the Scientology religion and the great thinker of the Dianetic principles, the Office points out that the average consumer in the EU would not perceive it as having this meaning, especially those who do not have a certain link with the Scientology Church. For the majority of the consumers the words “L. RON(ALD) HUBBARD” or “Ron’s Org” just refer to a person with this name and last name (earlier marks) or only a first name (CTM application)
“Since the opponent is the losing party in the opposition proceedings, it must bear all costs incurred by the other party in the course of these proceedings.”
Thus the Ron’s Orgs won an important legal contest with the RTC. However, the decision could be appealed, and the RTC, equipped with quite a few funds for legal actions and without any willingness to accept defeats, brought their case before the 2nd Board of Appeal of the OHIM.
II. Second round: not an overall victory, but…
One of the major arguments the RTC lawyers pushed forward was based on a survey, done by a big market research company, where people in the UK were shown the „Ron“ picture mark, and about a quarter of them recognized the word „Ron“ in it. In another survey Church members were asked about „Ron’s Org“, and many of them associated it with the Church of Scientology (the poor sods). Another main point again was the argument that the relevant public is not the general public, but Scientologists and people interested in the teachings of L.Ron Hubbard.
The latter argument was refuted by the Board of Appeal:
“…the goods and services applied for have not been limited in any way, for example to followers of the Church of Scientology… the relevant public is composed of average consumers.”
However, based on the fact that a significant part of the people presented with the signature read “Ron”, and that “Ron” and “Ron’s Org” are confusingly similar, the Board ruled that there is a likelihood of confusion – but only for the goods the signature mark was registered for, and that is magazines.
Regarding the other marks on which the opposition was based, “L.RONALD HUBBARD” and “L.RON HUBBARD”, the Board upheld the earlier favorable decision of the Opposition Division. It mainly argued that for a member of the general public who is interested in training, consultancy, psychological counseling etc. the idea the “L. Ron Hubbard” is meant with the “Ron” in “Ron’s Org” is not very probable, given the fact that “Ron” is quite a common name in many countries of the EC. Apart from that, the marks are not similar.
So the outcome of all of it is, that the mark “Ron’s Org” will be registered for all the goods and services in classes 41 and 45 (that is those having to do with educational services and counseling) and additionally in class 16 for “instructional and teaching material”, but not for “printed matter” as a whole as this would include magazines and thus collide with the picture mark “Ron” of the RTC.
As this was good enough for the purposes of protecting the trademark “Ron’s Org”, the ROC decided to not appeal and draw the procedure out once more. Interestingly, the RTC also accepted the decision and refrained from appealing to the European Court of First Instance. Whether their lawyers managed to get some sense across to their mandators, whether they lost interest, whether there were more pressing issues which required their funds – we do not know, but let us just take it as it is: Another legal victory of the Freezone over the CoS!
Who owns the copyrights of the works of L.Ron Hubbard?
Besides the question of what actually are the works of L. Ron Hubbard and what is mere alter-is, and besides the question of how far does copyright go with respect to exercising a religion, there is another burning question and that is:
Who actually owns the copyrights of the works of L.Ron Hubbard? Popular beliefs are that they belong to the RTC (wrong, they just own most of the trademarks), the New Era Publications Inc. (wrong, they are just licensees) or the L.Ron Hubbard Library (well, this is actually not a legal entity at all but just a name under which the Church of Spiritual Technology does business – you can find out more about it under
But the answer is not all that easy as this article will show.
First of all, to clear the concept: The copyright of a work actually is a bundle of rights which comprise e.g. the right to publish the work, reproduce it, or derive other works out of it. It originally lies with the author; however it can be transfered in parts or entirely, it can be licensed to others exclusively or non-exclusively and it can expire (in most countries 70 years after the death of the author) or, in some legislations, fall into the public domain which means nobody owns the copyright any longer and everybody can use the work as they please. The materials of L. Ron Hubbard will fall into public domain latest 2057.
Now let’s take a look at what happened to the copyrights of LRH works. According to the above quoted homepage www.sc-i-r-s-ology.pair.com, LRH transferred all of his rights in his works, including future works, to HCO (a division of HASI). This was done with two HCO PLs of 15 November 58 which can be found in the OEC Volume 1, page 13 and 15. The text of these PLs alone might be legally sufficient to be constructed as valid transfer of copyrights – it says there, “all copyrights, marks and rights, by blanket assignment are the property and will remain the property of HCO…the main office,” which also would include those works still to be written after the date of the Policy Letters. But the text also seems to indicate that the actual contract that achieves this transfer is to be found elsewhere: “…It becomes…the property of HCO with no further administrative action by reason of existing contracts and franchises.” This could mean that apart from the statement in this very HCO PL there is no further activity needed to get the copyright for each already written or future work into the property of HCO. It also could mean there is another contract, not specifically designated, which covers the assignment of copyrights in detail.
However there is no doubt that in any case there was a legally binding transfer of copyrights.
In 1964, HASI became the owner of the Church of Scientology, California (CSC), as is reflected in the HCO PLs of 6 November 1964, to be found in the OEC Vol. 7, pages 544 and 548.
Later HCO seems to have been transferred to the CSC – according to www.sc-i-r-s-ology.pair.com this is established by Hubbard Communication Office Executive Letter of 12 March 1966, “Corporate Status”, which unfortunately is not in the Green Volumes. But let’s assume it as a fact.
Now things become blurry:
On 10 May 1977, HASI Inc. is revoked by the competent state authorities because they have failed to file annual reports and thus ceases to exist. While HASI Inc. thus ceases to exist, HCO and all the intellectual property held by it, including the copyrights, remain in existence as it was made part of the CSC (which is incorporated separately and not affected by HASI’s revocation).
As the next important step, www.sc-i-r-s-ology.pair.com offers the following assumption – here a quote from their “document index”:
“4 May 1978 ‘Assignment of copyrights from CSC to L. Ron Hubbard’. CSC appears to be transferring to L. Ron Hubbard copyrights in only certain types of issues known as ‘Board Policy Letters’ and ‘Board Technical Bulletins’ (BPLs and BTBs), items not authored by L. Ron Hubbard but by others. But some analysts say this transferred all copyrights back to ‘Hubbard’ and therefore into his estate intentionally, secretly nullifying his own blanket transfer of 15 November 1985 to HCO… This transfer of the copyrights to the estate made possible the later transfer of the copyrights from the Estate to ‘Author’s Family Trust-B,’ and from there, by order of IRS, to the corporation known as ‘Church of Spiritual Technology’ (CST). “
(The “Author’s Family Trust-B” was a trust established to transfer LRH’s inheritance after his death. You can read more about this rather intricate and complicated scheme on the pages of www.sc-i-r-s-ology.pair.com and others on the internet.)
However this conclusion is anything but compelling. The document given to support it is one which played a role in some court case and thus became public. If you read it thoroughly, you will find the following:
The text, dated 4 May 1978, starts out with the paragraph
„WHEREAS the Church of Scientology of California (hereinafter referred to as “the Church”) has authored certain materials know as “Board Policy Letters” and “Board Technical Bulletins” (hereinafter referred to as “Letters” and “Bulletins” respectfully);…“
and later it says
„NOW THEREFORE, in consideration of the premises above the Church does hereby assign and transfer to Mr. Hubbard the entirety of its copyrights for the above referenced Letters and Bulletins, as follows:…“
Correctly read, the copyright transfer can only be constructed to cover the Board Policy Letters and the Board Technical Bulletins.
This leaves us with the question: what happened to the LRH copyrights of his own works? We know following facts: (well, we are not completely sure if they are all facts, but likely they are:)
– The Church of Scientology California (CSC) was involved in a law suit by a Mr. Wollersheim in the 80s, and it became clear they would likely have to pay him millions of dollars damages. That is probably why the CSC was stripped of all assets to prevent they finally had to pay. One can read about it e.g. in the affidavit of Stacy Brooks Young.
– Today the CSC does no longer exist. You can look it up in the corporation register of California. It is marked there as “dissolved”. You can find some references from the beginning of the 90s in different internet ressources, so they must have been in existence still then, but probably been dissolved in the second part of the 90s.
– What was done by the CST and “friends” during the 80s and 90s is very strange – they copyrighted a lot of materials under “L.Ron Hubbard Library”, all of which were alterations of originals, which in fact means that just the altered portions of the texts and books are protected by copyright, not the originals. We believe these were more than 4,000 copyright notices handed in to the Library of Congress – so the question is, why would they do so? You can read about it here for more details – the author comes to the conclusion that all the activities for the CST “doing business as L.Ron Hubbard Library” is strongly indicating that the original copyrights were lost for some reason or other.
So we can assume the following:
IF there exist no other assignments of copyrights in or around 1978 from the CSC to L.Ron Hubbard which cover the works of LRH himself (not just BTBs and BPLs)
AND IF there exist no later assignments of copyrights during the 80s or early 90s from CSC to the CST, the RTC or some other CoS -related entity
AND IF together with the dissolution of the CSC there was no blanket (covering all the remaining assets) assignment to some legal successor – as might be the Church of Scientology Western US
THEN the LRH Copyrights have no legal possessor which probably means they are “public domain”.
Unfortunately we have no means to check out the three “IF”-assumptions above. However there are indicators that the conclusion might be factual. It might not be the only explanation of the things that happened around CST and L.Ron Hubbard Library, but it is certainly a good one.
And even if there is some transfer of copyrights from CSC – don’t forget, HCO became a division of CSC at some point – to any other entity, you could still argue that the blanket assignment of LRH (see above: it says “… all copyrights, marks and rights, are the property and will remain the property of HCO…”) does NOT give the assignee, HCO Ltd., any right to FURTHER transfer it to any other person! Which would mean any assignment done by CSC is invalid, and with its dissolution the copyrights have fallen into the public domain.
If any of the readers could add some supporting or contrary data or supply any of the missing documents mentioned, we certainly would be glad.
In any case all LRH materials in most countries of the Earth will fall and become public domain in the year 2057 and may be copied and used by anyone.