According to regulators at the U.S. Copyright Office, hot yoga guru Bikram Choudhury’s lawsuit against free yoga chain Yoga to the People isn’t valid because yoga poses count as “exercises” and not “choreography” and thus cannot be trademarked.
In an email contained in a YTTP response to the lawsuit, the chief of the Copyright Office’s Performing Arts division said that exercises like yoga “do not constitute the subject matter that Congress intended to protect as choreography. We will not register such exercises (including yoga movements), whether described as exercises or as selection and ordering of movements.”
To recap: Choudhury, who tends to be litigious, is suing Yoga to the People for offering 90-minute hot yoga classes like those that Choudhury popularized and using the same sequence of poses that he uses. YTTP’s founder Greg Gumucio is a former student of Choudhury’s.
In the response that contains the Copyright Office’s email, Gumucio also writes, “I very much regret that Bikram has brought this lawsuit. He was my teacher. I continue to respect him and to honor his accomplishments. He has done more than perhaps anyone else to inform people — in the United States and the world — of the benefits of yoga. The particular style of yoga he has popularized has improved the health of countless practitioners. Arguably, Bikram deserves the material rewards that these accomplishments have already brought him.” YTTP launched a petition that now has over 8,000 signatures.
Choudhury’s lawyers maintain that the suit is still valid because Choudhury has registered a copyright for the book containing his yoga pose sequence, according to BusinessWeek.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 12, 2011