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TranceNet Interview:
WPEC Attorney Catherine Dziuba, Esq.

January 30, 1996

Catherine Dziuba wrote two letters to "Mr. John Doe," a TM teacher, threatening legal action on behalf of her clients, the World Plan Executive Council and the Maharishi Foundation, Ltd. During the week of January 29, 1996, we tried repeatedly to reach her to confirm these letters. However, when we called the number on her letterhead, we were told we had reached the "Maharishi Ayur Vedic Clinic" in Pacific Palisades. We were repeatedly assured by Clinic staff that Ms. Dziuba was traveling and unavailable.

Interestingly, about an hour after we interviewed WPEC president Thomas M. Hedley, Ms. Dziuba called us to discuss her letters to "Mr. John Doe."

John M. Knapp, Editor, TranceNet: I appreciate you're calling. I had some trouble reaching you.

Catherine Dziuba, Esq., attorney for Maharishi Foundation, Ltd., and World Plan Executive Council: I know I was out of town.

JMK: Yeah, someone mentioned that. Listen, if you have a moment I wanted to ask some questions. I've been given copies of letters that you sent to one [John Doe]. One's dated November 15, [1994,] the other February 14, [1995,], and they're regarding breach of contract with the Maharishi Foundation and the WPEC. Do you remember the letters?

CD: I remember them, yeah. I don't have them in front of me, but yes, I definitely remember sending them.

JMK: Okay, great. In what capacity do you function for the Foundation?

CD: I sent those letters, I was an attorney. I am an attorney. I sent them as their attorney.

JMK: Are you on retainer? Or are you on staff? Or is this freelance project....?

CD: [interrupting] What does that have to do with anything?

JMK: It's just a question.

CD: [pause] At the time I was inhouse.

JMK: Could you tell me the connection between the Maharishi Foundation, and the World Plan Executive Council? I'm not familiar with the Maharishi Foundation.

CD: Maharishi Foundation, Ltd.?

JMK: Yes.

CD: And World Plan Executive Council?

JMK: Right.

CD: [pause] They are the holders of the trademark and trade secret rights concerning the Transcendental Meditation program. And the rights had been licensed to World Plan Executive Council, meaning, basically that's a legal term you may or may not be familiar with, meaning that World Plan Executive Council was given the authority to use the marks in the United States and to supervise, share in the supervisorial[sic] position, overseeing the use of the marks and the trade secrets.

JMK: Do you know when this took place? Because I have documents from the '70s to indicate that those trademarks are held by the WPEC.

CD: Well, that did change.

JMK: It did. Do you know when that took place?

CD: You know what, I don't have the exact date, but all rights are at this time vested in Maharishi Foundation, Ltd. But you're right, at one time the trademark rights may have been vested in World Plan Executive Council. [To further confuse the intellectual property and front groups issues, the MIU/MUM page says that the Maharishi Ayur-Ved Foundation holds the copyrights.]

JMK: Do you know when the Foundation came into being? You know, roughly?

CD: I don't.

JMK: You don't, really. Do you know where it's incorporated?

CD: I don't.

JMK: Do you know if it's incorporated in the US?

CD: I don't know that. It may not be.

JMK: Now, you cite two contracts in the letters.....

CD: [interrupting] What's the nature of the piece that you're doing, by the way?

JMK: Just reporting on this. Just reporting on this.

CD: Reporting on letters?

JMK: Yes.

CD: [pause] Okay.

[For a good introduction to contract law, search the Cornell Law Library. Of particular interest are "adequate consideration," "undue influence," "fraud," "coercion," "duress," "good faith," and "termination." It seems there are very good reasons for believing that WPEC has no valid contract with any TM teacher or TM course participant. For an overview of trade-secret law, see The Trade Secrets Home Page. There apear to be very good reasons why the Judge in the Kropinski case found that TM mantras, sutras, and other teachings do not constitute trade secrets. Note: The editors of TranceNet do not offer legal advice. Interested parties are invited to seek appropriate legal counsel.]

JMK: You cite two contracts. One is "To His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi," which I believe is referred to as the "Oath of Allegiance," and then another one between a "Course Participant" and the Association, an unnamed Association, from October '79. Is it your opinion that these are legally binding contracts?

CD: Yes.

JMK: Now it's my understanding that both parties were not given copies of these contracts. Would it still be valid in your mind?

CD: Oh, yeah.

JMK: Can you give me another instance when that happens?

CD: When what happens?

JMK: Where that might be a contract in which there are not executed copies given to both parties?

CD: Well, that doesn't invalidate the contract. It may in the case of.... Now, there are certain provisions in California that deal with certain purchases, maybe credit card purchases or something, I can't even remember. But no, that wouldn't invalidate the contract. Much as Mr. [Doe] would like them to be invalidated.

JMK: It's his testimony and the testimony of a few others that I've talked with that they were told when they signed these that they have no legal force. One of the participants said that they were told that "the laws of karma function for eternity." Does this sound familiar to you?

CD: I wasn't there. I have not heard that.

JMK: Yeah. Are you a teacher of TM?

CD: Yes, I am.

JMK: Did you sign such a document?

CD: [long pause] I, uh, signed a document agreeing, uh, to use the trademarks and trade secrets, uh, appropriately. I don't know that it was the same one. I don't even remember.

JMK: You didn't receive a copy either?

CD: I don't have a copy, no.

JMK: Did you receive a copy.

CD: I don't have a copy.

JMK: You're answering a slightly different question than I'm asking. Did you receive....

CD: No, I'm answering your question. I don't have a copy of it.

JMK: I understand that you don't have one now, but did you receive one at the time you signed it?

CD: No. I don't think I did.

JMK: What actions do you plan to take on this and similar cases?

CD: At this point in time, I would have to discuss it with the clients. I'm not able to speak on behalf of the clients in terms of just where they're going with it.

JMK: And your clients are Maharishi Foundation, Ltd., and World Plan Executive Council?

CD: Yes.

JMK: Do you know how many TM teachers have received such letters?

CD: I don't know.

JMK: Do you know how many you personally have sent out?

CD: I don't know. I'd have to look through my files. [pause] There may be others.

JMK: But we're talking more than one?

CD: There may be others.

JMK: Less than....

CD: [interrupting] If there is a situation where teachers are acting improperly they would get a letter.

JMK: Fewer than a hundred, though?

CD: I don't know. Yeah, I would think certainly fewer than a hundred.

JMK: Okay. Now, it's my understanding that this second contract, which is between the "Course Participant" and an unnamed Association, is also signed by TM Sidhas. Have you sent similar letters to any TM Sidha?

CD: I really don't know what you're referring to.

JMK: Would you like me to read a little bit of the contract....?

CD:[interrupting] No. No, that's all right. You know, frankly, the legal work I do is confidential, and I'm really not at liberty to discuss the legal work that I do for any client. So I would just have to say that.

JMK: Do you have other clients?

CD: Yes. I have other clients.

JMK: Do you have an opinion on what exactly is copyrighted and trademarked by the Maharishi Foundation? It's my understanding that, after a little bit of research, that the mantras, the Yoga Sutras, and the methods are alleged to be common knowledge in India for centuries. I have some court documents from the Kropinski case in which that was entered into the court records. On the basis of that is it your contention that these were somehow trade secrets none the less?

CD: What you have to understand, and maybe Mr. [Doe] hasn't explained this to you, that there is a whole teaching procedure that is a trade secret, that includes more than just the items that you've mentioned.

JMK:Can you give me some idea, without breaching a secret?

CD: No, it's a trade secret.[laughing] It's a trade secret.

JMK:It's my understanding that over 40,000 individuals have been taught this trade secret. Do you still feel it's a trade secret?

CD: People who are given information about this trade secret are given the information in confidence, and I believe it does maintain its status as a trade secret.

JMK: Not to belabor the point, but it's my understanding for a trade secret to be valid, it must be unique knowledge, number one, and number two must be held by a relatively close number of individuals over which the corporation has some control by contract. So, again we're talking about 40,000 teachers plus of the TM technique.....

CD: No, that's not really how trade secrets are defined actually.

JMK: Could you explain?

CD: Well, trade secrets -- it's knowledge which isn't generally known to the public and which gives the holder of the trade secrets an economic advantage by reason of that.

JMK: Were you aware that the "Steps of Initiation" and so forth are on the Internet and have been for six months or more?

CD: [long pause] Uh, that may be.

JMK: Would you still hold that it's a trade secret.

CD: I believe it's a trade secret. [See "EFF's Intellectual Property Rights Primer" for conflicting opinions.]

JMK:What about Deepak Chopra? He appears to be teaching similar techniques that he learned within the TM movement. Will the WPEC or the Maharishi Foundation be taking action against him?

CD: I-I-I don't know.

JMK: It's reported that he believes that the Maharishi Foundation has no right to these trademarks and copyrights, because they're common knowledge....

CD: Who believes?

JMK: Chopra. Do you have any opinion on that?

CD: I don't know what he believes.

JMK: But you would disagree, even without knowing what Chopra has said, you disagree that they have no right to these trademarks and copyrights?

CD: Well, they obviously have the rights to them because they're registered in the US. They're the registered owners of the trademarks, and along with the trademark rights goes the trade secret rights. If people take action to misappropriate the trade secret, then they stand to be legally liable.

JMK: It's my understanding that even though you may have it registered, there's defense of the trademark, or all intellectual property rights, involved. And I'm not aware of any attempts by the TM movement, in any of its various forms, to have defended those trademark rights. You see "transcendental meditation," for instance, in lower case constantly in the press. Do you still believe it's a trademark?

CD: Absolutely. It has incontestable status as a trademark. The fact that the press uses it incorrectly doesn't interfere with that.

JMK: Okay, I'm certainly no legal eagle here. It's my understanding that the holder of the trademark must constantly be defending that against the usage. That's how "aspirin" for instance, lost its trademark status. Am I incorrect?

CD: Well, you should supervise the use of your trademark, and you should take reasonable steps to be sure that they're used correctly. And you can see that that's being done. You've got those letters to Mr. [Doe].

JMK: In addition to Mr. [Doe], though, are there any other court cases or anything that you can cite?

CD: I'm not aware of court cases. But that doesn't mean anything. The fact that I'm not aware.

JMK: Sure. I understand. But you're the guy I've got on the phone.... Did you know that members, who claim to be of "Purusha," which I understand to be a "monk" group within the TM organization, have been calling Mr. [Doe] as well, indicating that there shortly will be legal action to be taken?

CD: [long pause] Huh.

JMK: [pause] Were you aware of that...?

CD: [interrupting] What difference does it make if I'm aware of it? Again I'm not going to discuss conversations that I might have with clients.

JMK: Is it your understanding that "Purusha" in some way also, or members of "Purusha" .... The one I have the name of here is apparently a "Doug." He didn't identify himself further than that. Is it your understanding that they somehow represent Maharishi Foundation as well?

CD:{pause] I don't know. I don't know exactly what situation you're referring to.

JMK: Well, I can try to recreate it for you....

CD: [interrupting] No, that's okay. I don't need to know...... Is there anything else within my purview that you'd be interested in knowing?

JMK: Are you still retained by them? Are you still working with the Maharishi Foundation or with WPEC?

CD: [long pause] I do legal work for the organizations, yeah. I do legal work for the organizations.

JMK: I talked with Thomas Hedley [the president of World Plan Executive Council] a little earlier this morning, and he indicated that as far as he knew, WPEC was, in his words, "winding down," and now being subsumed by something called the Maharishi Vedic Schools, or something of that nature?

CD: There are Maharishi Vedic Schools, yes.

JMK: Have they taken over the teaching of the TM technique? And now hold the copyrights and trademarks?

CD: Yes. But that hasn't been decided yet.

JMK: Are they also licensees of the TM trademarks?

CD: I believe so, yes.

JMK: But it is the World Plan Executive Council -- which is winding down its business operations -- that is seeking to enforce these rights?

CD: The World Plan Executive Council is still in business. They hold some rights to property in the US.

JMK: But they aren't actively involved in teaching TM any longer?

CD: No.

JMK: But they are the entity that will enforce these copyrights and intellectual property rights?

CD: Yes.

JMK: I think that is all I have to ask you. Is there anything you would like to add?

CD: [pause] No.

JMK: Thank you very much for your time.

CD: Good bye.

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