A U.S. District Court judge ruled that Bikram cannot copyright the 26 asana sequence that he created and popularized through Bikram yoga. This is a thought-provoking story for anyone interested in yoga — or intellectual property.
“The ruling confirms what we’ve always believed. No one person or organization owns yoga or any type of yoga. It belongs to all of us.” Mark Drost, Evolation Co-Founder
After a heated battle between Bikram and several yoga studios practicing “hot yoga”, U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright ruled last Friday that Bkiram does not in fact have copyright protection for the 26 yoga posture sequence and two breathing exercises he developed. What’s that mean? That Evolation—one of the studios involved—and anybody else who wants to, are permitted to offer “hot yoga” classes using the 26 posture sequence in question.
Wright said, “even if the manner in which Choudhury arranged the sequence is unique, the sequence would not be copyrightable subject matter because individual yoga poses are not copyrightable subject matter.”
The judge ruled that Bikram’s copyrights cover only his books and videos describing Bikram Yoga, not the performance of the asanas themselves. But the ruling stated that yoga teachers “cannot be liable for copyright infringement for teaching, using or performing the sequence.” You can download a copy of the official ruling here.
Unfortunately, the suit is not over yet for Evolation. They are due back in court on January 29th for a ruling on the claims of “trademark infringement, copyright of the dialogue that accompanies the sequence and a violation of the teacher- certification agreements”.
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Yoga to the People—another New York based studio sued by Bikram—agreed to stop teaching Bikram Yoga and settled with Choudhury just a few weeks ago.