Miami, do you think “bikram yoga”can be copyrighted?

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Many Miami residents have become interested in bikram yoga, a type of yoga that’s practiced in a very hot studio. Miami, in fact, was one of the first places where bikram yoga took off. The city got its first studio in 1985, well before the current yoga craze swept the rest of the country.

So, devoted yogis (a term for yoga practitioners) might be interested to know that bikram yoga is the subject of a very interesting intellectual property dispute.

Bikram Choudhury, the founder of bikram yoga, claims he has copyrighted bikram yoga and is now suing a former student of his who has founded his own lucrative chain of “bikram yoga” studios. The student’s studios are, of course, the chief competition for Chouhury’s own chain of studios.

One of the key issues in this dispute is whether a form of exercise can be copyrighted. It’s an issue that not even the U.S. Copyright Office seems sure of. On June 22, it issued a statement saying that the copyright for bikram yoga may have been “issued in error” and that the office was reviewing any copyrights on the subject.

That confusion has not brought a halt to Choudhury’s lawsuit, however. It is still expected to go to trial sometime next year.
Copyrights are granted to give protection to a work of authorship that is in a “fixed tangible medium.” Traditionally copyrighted works are things like plays, novels and songs. That’s an extremely general description of copyright, but just going off that, does it make sense that a method of practicing yoga could be copyrighted? What do you think?

Source: The Miami New Times, “Bikram Yoga Copyright Lawsuit: Miami Weighs In,” Rebecca Moss and Jon Tayler, July 19, 2012