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USA Golden Temple Loses Right to Sell Tea Under Yogi Brand Name

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by spnadmin, Oct 10, 2011.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Records reveal tempest in a tea box
    Golden Temple loses the right to sell teas under the Yogi brand, which reverts to the Sikh leader’s widow

    by Sherri Buri Macdonald

    By the first of the year, the boxes of Yogi Tea on store shelves may look the same, but the product inside and the company making it will be different.

    Meanwhile, Suvi — a newcomer in the tea section — may start selling the old Yogi Tea flavors under the Suvi brand.

    This turn of events involving the popular brand Yogi Tea and its Lane County manufacturers was set in motion by an arbitration panel in Portland.

    The widow of Sikh spiritual leader Yogi Bhajan — the namesake of Yogi Tea — sued tea-maker Golden Temple, a Eugene company, for trademark infringement in U.S. District Court in California in February 2010.

    The case went to arbitration, and this summer the arbitrators found that the Yogi Tea trademark belongs to the heirs of Yogi Bhajan, including his widow, not to Golden Temple, the company that has made the tea for years in Springfield and in Europe. The Springfield tea factory has 50 employees.

    The arbitrators ordered Golden Temple to stop using the Yogi trademark by Jan. 1, 2012, and to pay Yogi Bhajan’s widow, Los Angeles resident Bibiji, $822,302 in damages for trademark infringement from January 2009 through October 2010.

    Assuming Yogi Tea’s sales stay relatively steady through the end of the year, Bibiji would be owed about $485,905 more for royalties from November 2010 through December 2011, according to Bibiji’s attorney, Surjit Soni.

    Yogi Tea, a top-selling natural tea brand in the United States and Europe, had sales of more than $27 million in 2009, according to court documents.

    It’s unclear what effect the trademark issue and name change will have on the Springfield tea factory.

    Golden Temple officials did not respond to requests for comment from The Register-Guard. However, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records show that the company applied on Sept. 6 to register “Suvi.”

    It is an unusual and costly situation for both sides in the dispute, according to trademark and branding experts.

    “One of them has the product but no brand. The other has the brand but no product,” said Ken Kwartler, a trademark attorney in Lake Oswego.

    Losing a brand is “a big deal” for a company, said David Funk, a branding expert with the Eugene marketing firm of bell+funk.

    “To rebrand where there’s existing equity in a product can be very expensive because you have to literally reintroduce your loyal audience to a brand new name,” he said.

    It requires creating the new name, registering that name internationally, which requires money and time — “about six months if they have good luck,” Funk said. Then the company has to advertise and contact distributors and store buyers, he said.

    “We have to be talking in the millions of dollars by the time you’ve redeveloped a brand, gone through all your distribution networks and let the market know, ‘Hey, we’re no longer Yogi Tea; we’re this,’ ” Funk said.

    “With a $27 million-a-year business, I would be ready to invest some serious money,” Kwartler, the trademark attorney, said.

    “I typically tell people they should spend 3 to 5 percent of the money they’re making a year just to register and protect the brand,” he said. “Here you have a bigger challenge. It’s not just registering, but you have a whole marketing campaign on top of that.”

    As for the brand name Suvi, “at least it sounds generally familiar, like Sufi and Yogi,” Funk said. It also may bring to mind other natural tea brands: Rumi, Numi, Tazo and Souvia.

    The people who have newly acquired the rights to the Yogi brand also have challenges ahead, Funk said. They have to create new flavors and develop the packaging, he said. They have to set up manufacturing and distribution.

    For Suvi and Yogi, “It’s basically a race to the market,” Funk said.

    Bibiji, the yogi’s widow, plans by January to introduce a product line of 45 to 50 formulations, including organic, herbal and ayurvedic teas, her lawyer said.

    “We’ll provide a broad range,” he said. “She has her own formulations.”

    Soni did not disclose who will manufacture and distribute the tea.

    “My understanding is that Golden Temple is rebranding (and) they’ve selected a name and are trying to reach the market with a new product,” Soni said.

    “I suspect they’re going to make a run at trying to keep (the Springfield) plant operating and functioning,” he said. “We wish them good luck.

    “We have no ill will toward them and the people who work at the plant.”

    Soni said Bibiji regrets that she and Golden Temple executives could not reach an agreement to license the Yogi trademark to Golden Temple.

    “When there’s a change of control over Golden Temple, there may be an opportunity for us to work with them again,” he added.

    Soni was alluding to a lengthy lawsuit awaiting a decision from Judge Leslie Roberts in Multnomah County Circuit Court. In it, the religious leaders of the Sikh community founded by Yogi Bhajan sued the Sikh community’s business leaders, alleging unjust enrichment and breach of fiduciary duty.

    Oregon Attorney General John Kroger, who supervises charities in Oregon, sued Golden Temple’s managers on similar grounds, and Kroger’s case was merged with the religious leaders’ case.

    Arbitration findings generally are not made public, but the Yogi Tea decision was included as an exhibit in other court proceedings filed in U.S. District Court in New Mexico. The New Mexico proceedings involved a dispute between Bibiji and Yogi Bhajan’s 15 female former assistants over their competing claims to the yogi’s estate.

    Yogi Bhajan was born in India and brought his own brand of Sikhism to the United States in the late 1960s. He encouraged his adherents to create businesses; that was the origin of Golden Temple, which made granola and other cereals in Eugene. That division was sold to Hearthside Food Solutions in May 2010, leaving just the tea division, Yogi Tea, in Golden Temple’s control.

    Hearthside, which is based in Illinois, had a two-year license from Golden Temple to produce Yogi brand cereals, Soni said. He said Bibiji plans to phase out that product by the end of the year.

    Then she’ll produce a line of Yogi cereal and is in discussion with an appropriate candidate to do that, Soni said.

    http://www.registerguard.com/web/newslocalnews/26961986-41/yogi-tea-brand-golden-temple.html.csp
     
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  3. Joginder Singh Foley

    Joginder Singh Foley United Kingdom
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    I wonder just which authority spritial or temporal gave 3HO or anyone connected with 3HO the right to trademark the Harimandir Sahib/Golden Temple and to use it to sell overpriced Hippy products.

    :angryyoungsingh:

    This Singh is deffo non too happy about such dodgey 3ho practices and just how much of the earning from "Golden Temple" products is being used for Seva rather than lining 3ho's pockets just this humble Singhs heartfelt opinion on this

    :interestedsingh:
     
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  4. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Joginder ji

    I do not know if you have been following this story from the court side. It has been going on nearly a year. We have covered it as best as we could. Several threads have been posted that trace developments. Of note: The individuals who claimed legal title to the Golden Temple enterprises have long since abandoned their Sikh identity. Actions taken in accordance with the "will" of Yogi Bhajan is under scrutiny. More developments are expected as his legacy was complicated. This and other aspects of the case have torn his human legacy into pieces. It must be very painful.
     
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  5. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Another forum member sent me a pm and pointed out that there are several companies in the US and abroad using the logo of "Golden Temple" with a picture of Harimandir Sahib. That 3HO is not the only organization to use it. I would like to point out that 3HO is not part of the Golden Temple Foods organization. Golden Temple held the trademark for Yogi Teas, and collected royalties. This has changed. They are incorporated differently and separately, along with several organizations that were all initially under the oversight of Yogi Bhajan. That is why this legal action is extremely complicated. This is just one slice of how complicated
    One needs to read the other links to get the full extent.

    Here are two informative links:

    http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/united-states/36041-selling-golden-temple-fight-yogi-bhajan.html

    http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/people-and-opinion/36137-death-of-a-yogi-video.html

    It also seems from the Thread Starter article that very recent litigation has overturned some of the actions that followed Yogi Bhajan's death. Just what has happened is unclear.
     
  6. Joginder Singh Foley

    Joginder Singh Foley United Kingdom
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    WJKKWJKF Sat Siri akal

    Personally i have seen and read all sorts of carryingons involving people in the innermost circles of 3ho/yogi bhagan that i now no longer take any notice or interest regarding anything 3ho/yogi bhagan as it has become difficult to see who is telling the truth and who is not telling the truth anymore, But i do admire and respect the average 3HOers commitment and effort. Though my personal opinion and other Singhs and kaurs are perfectly entitled to agree with me or disagree with me but i feel that the Harimandir Sahib/Golden temple is of far more inportance and sprituality than to be used as a trademark/logo to sell worldly goods just this humble Singh's humble opinion


    :angryyoungsingh:
     
  7. Joginder Singh Foley

    Joginder Singh Foley United Kingdom
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    WJKKWJKF Sat Siri akal

    PS It looks like this is gonna run and run and could get very interesting before it ends. i'm deffo gonna have to pay more attention to any posts tha come on SPN on this

    :happysingh:
     
  8. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    I do not think Golden Temple is a patented name. SGPC should have done that long time ago. We see all kinds of food and trinkets under the name.

    Poor Bibi ji against the 15 former Female assistants of Yogi Bhajan. One wonders what they assisted Yogi Bhajan in! A nice tug of war brewing. Pardon the pun.

    As they say, a lot more is hitting the fan than expected....
     
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