Evidently Bikram Yoga is suing Yoga to the People (another Hatha Yoga establishment) for copying a sequence of 26 Hatha Yoga postures performed in a hot room (105 degrees) …claiming a violation US copyright law.
Is this Copyright Infringement? Could be if the postures or the “routine of postures” are original. (It is possible to obtain copyright protection for choreography.) Although proving that a sequence of Hatha Yoga postures is original could be a challenge; since, Hatha Yoga is an ancient spiritual tradition with roots in India.
Interestingly, over the last decade, the Indian government has launched aggressive ‘traditional knowledge’ campaigns seeking to recapture ancient traditional knowledge, including Yoga, Ayurveda, and Homoeopathy practices that have been granted intellectual property protection in other counties. For example, several patents have been revoked in the US and the EU for turmeric, basmati and neem tree extracts because the patents were for traditional uses that are mentioned in numerous ancient texts. (Patent and copyright protection are similar ~ they both require originality. Patent law requires “novelty” for legal protection and enforcement… and copyright law requires “originality.”)
It will be interesting to see how flexible the US courts and the Indian Government are with Bikram’s allegation of copyright ownership and infringement of the “Hot Yoga” sequence at issue.
BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.
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For more information: 12/9/2011 UPDATE http://wp.me/p10nNq-fT from the US Copyright Office; India’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library: http://www.tkdl.res.in/tkdl/langdefault/common/Abouttkdl.asp?GL=Eng; The WIPO Creative Heritage Project: http://www.wipo.int/freepublications/en/tk/934/wipo_pub_l934tch.pdf; and Bikram’s US Copyright registration numbers: TX0005259325, TX0006555860, TX0005624003, TX0000179160, TXu001323218, TX0005499662, TXu001022657, TXu000934417, PA0001053335; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com