Bikram Choudhury is a yoga guru who promotes a style of yoga he now claims as his own intellectual property, known generically for the past 25 years or so as Bikram yoga.
Mr. Choudhury claims to hold copyright in a sequence of yoga poses and breathing exercises (each of which individually has been in the public domain for hundreds if not thousands of years). On the strength of this registration, he claims that yoga teachers and students infringe his rights not only by "copying" (practicing) the sequence but by creating derivative works, which he asserts include "virtually all modifications or additions" including "the unauthorized uses of even a small number of consecutive posture" or the addition of different postures or breathing exercises to the sequence or portions of the sequence."
Choudhury, a Beverly Hills millionaire now, recently sued a small, family-run yoga studio, which could not afford to defend itself for long and settled, agreeing to an injunction drafted by Choudhury's lawyers. Choudhury is now touting the settlement on his web site as "a significant legal victory" that "fully vindicates Bikram's conviction in the originality and legal enforceability of Bikram's Yoga."
I am assisting a non-profit collective called Open Source Yoga Unity in a suit it has filed in District Court seeking a declaration that Bikram cannot prevent teachers and students from practicing a style of yoga or from performing yoga asanas in any order they choose, including the sequence Bikram teaches and promotes.
This case presents any number of interesting copyright and trademark issues.
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