Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Bikram Choudhury prevails in groundbreaking copyright case

published a Manatt, Phelps & Phillips news release about the Bikram Choudhury copyright case.
In a case that will have broad implications for the yoga community, a federal district court judge in San Francisco, California ruled on Friday that a yoga sequence consisting of a number of individual yoga asanas (poses) arranged in a sufficiently creative manner could be entitled to copyright protection. The ruling is the latest in what has become a heated dispute between Bikram Choudhury, the undisputed founder of the popular brand of yoga known as Bikram Yoga(r), and Open Source Yoga Unity, Inc. (OSYU), an organization comprised of yoga instructors who seek to cancel Bikram's trademarks and copyrights in Bikram Yoga(r).

U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton acknowledged the case is unusual, writing: 'On first impression, it thus seems inappropriate, and almost unbelievable, that a sequence of yoga positions could be any one person's intellectual property.' The Judge acknowledged the lack of legal precedence on this issue: 'OSYU has provided no persuasive authority that a compilation of yoga asanas cannot be protected under the copyright laws in the same manner as other compilations.' However, the court admitted that it 'has been unable to locate any authority that precludes' application of the copyright laws to yoga.

The judge also dismissed outright OSYU's claims of copyright misuse, saying that it was well within Bikram's rights as a copyright owner to 'enforce his copyright by informing people he believes to be infringing his copyright that his copyright permits him to enjoin their performance of the Bikram yoga sequence, or any modifications of the sequence that can be considered substantially similar to it.'

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