Stretching copyright- Judge Gets Warmed Up for Bikram Yoga Case

Yesterday, November 13, the Court held a Case Management Conference in Open Source Yoga Unity v. Bikram Choudhury. I appeared, along with James Harrison, for OSYU; Akin Gump lawyers appeared for Bikram. Judge Phyllis Hamilton began the conference by observing that this case is one of the most interesting she's had all year. The good news: Judge Hamilton gets it. She completely understands our argument that a "method" of stretching and exercising is not copyrightable subject matter. She did observe, however, that Bikram claims to have registered "the sequence" and thus has a copyright. This is quite a common reaction to intellectual property- you have a paper from the government so there must be something there. But if I draw a picture of someone riding a horse and fill out paperwork with the copyright office to register it, I have a copyright to my picture. I can sue you for putting my picture on the copier and running off copies for you and all your friends, subject to fair use defenses. I can't run down to the Equestrian Center and sue everyone who's riding a horse. The other news: Judge Hamilton expressed concerns about OSYU's standing to represent its members. She told us to amend the Complaint within 20 days to better allege standing. This is merely a drafting issue easily managed.
Discovery will be slightly staged, with copyright discovery stayed 90 days so Bikram's lawyers can do their best to prove there's no standing. Judge Hamilton opined that OSYU would have to respond to discovery seeking the names of its members but stated she would enter a protective order that provided that such information could only be used for purposes of the litigation and not for harassment or retaliation against the individual yoga studios and instructors or other members. Trial is set for March 7, 2005.

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