Each one of us have practiced yoga at some point of our time in one form or another. Yoga is not only physically helpful but also mentally. It lowers blood pressure, body weight and also lowers the risk of heart diseases. All of us are aware of yoga experts like Bikram Choudary and Baba Ramdev who have made yoga to be used in one’s life. Now just imagine you had to pay for practicing yoga at home. Imagine Baba Ramdev or Bikram Choudary filing an infringement lawsuit on all those who have not paid and practiced their teaching. And guess what? This has happened.
Copyright claim by Bikram Choudary:
Bikram Choudary is the founder of Bikram Yoga. This is a type of yoga, where twenty-six yoga asanas are practiced in a particular sequence in a room of about forty-one degree Celsius with 40 percent humidity which lasts for almost ninety minutes. It improves flexibility, burns more calories, builds bone density and reduces stress. In 2011, Bikram filed over 3 lawsuits, where he claimed Bikram yoga to be his property and anyone using the asanas and propagating the style is infringing on his copyright. Initially, the lower courts were on his behalf and backed his copyrights. In 2012, when the case was in review under the US Federal Court, the court ruled that Bikram yoga is not different from the traditional yoga and just by making or creating a sequence it does not prove distinctiveness and hence cannot be under copyright. It was after this case that the CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) realized that our traditional ways are at stake.
Institute for Inner Studies v. Charlotte Anderson:
In 2014, something similar to the gave above occurred. There was a discussion on whether yoga asanas and pranic healing could get a trademark or copyrights. The Institute for Inner Studies, Philippines, restricted people and organisations from practicing pranic healing, because they claimed that pranic healing was founded and discovered by their gurus. Although the Court claimed that certain literary works can be copyrightable, but in this case, the two parties practiced different ways of the same concept and ruled that such practices cannot be copyrighted. Further, the Court also clearly stated that yoga techniques or asanas are not ‘original literary works or dramatic work’ under the Copyright Act and therefore can’t be copyrighted.
From the above cases we have seen that yoga can neither be copyrighted nor be trademarked, but patented? Patenting of a yoga asana is impractical. To file a patent, the product or service needs to be unique, innovative and profitable. Yoga is something that has been since ages in the human race. The sages and gurus have tried and tested all the forms of yoga and have been spreading the knowledge of yoga limitlessly. The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library has stored all the yoga asanas (over 900) known to human race and itself can file an opposition against anyone who would try to patent a yoga asana. Now what if tomorrow you wake up and invent a totally unique and different asana? According to historians and gurus who are well learned in this field, it is highly impossible for there to be a brand-new asana or a brand-new way to practice an asana. This is because the knowledge of yoga has existed probably even before the Indus Valley Civilization (the first civilization of mankind) and every possible yoga asana and way to do these yoga asanas have already been discovered or thought of.
Yoga is the oldest Intellectual property which belongs to everyone. Everyone on this world including animals have the right to practice and study yoga. It is India’s best gift to the world. India has never stopped or will stop others from yoga. Yoga is for everyone and forever.