Golden Temple Loses Right to Market Yogi Tea


Golden Temple, a business spinoff inspired by deceased Yogi Bhajan, has lost the right to market teas under the $27 million Yogi brand effective Jan. 1, 2012.

In its place the company has introduced Suvi tea which retains the flavors and formulations of Yogi Tea. Meanwhile the founders of Yogi are developing new formulations for their familiar packaging as Golden Temple is races to rebrand.

The Yogi’s widow, Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Puri, sued Golden Temple in 2010, alleging that trusted advisors of the Yogi had excluded the family from business dealings following his death, forged critical documents relating to the take-over of the company and paid excessive compensation to executives that had abandoned the orthodox Sikh practices taught by its founder. The suit was joined by the State of Oregon.

The courts separated religious issues raised in the suit from business concerns. Arbitrators awarded Bibiji $822,302 in damages for trademark infringement following the removal of the Yogi’s image from the tea and will pay an additional $485,904 in royalties, according to reports in the Register Guard of Eugene.

Bibiji who is left with a valuable brand in an empty box expects to introduce a product line of 45 to 50 flavored teas including organic, herbal and Ayurvedic versions by January.

Yogi Bhajan began teaching Kundalini Yoga in 1969, offering each graduating class an herbal tea of Ayurvedic spices. In 1984 his followers launched Yogi Tea which has since grown into a multi-million grocery brand and mainstay at Golden Temple Vegetarian Restaurants in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Proceeds from the business ventures funded several nonprofits established by the Yogi.

Following his death, contributions to Bhajan community nonprofits dropped 85 percent, from $1.2 million in 2006 to $174,931 in 2007.

A lawsuit alleging unjust enrichment and breach of fiduciary duty to the religious tenants of Yogi Bhajan was combined with a complaint from Oregon’s Attorney General and remains in circuit court.

Source: Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.