The Bikram Yoga case settled out of court in May 2005, avoiding a federal court hearing to determine whether Bikram Choudhury’s copyrighted sequence of 26 poses and two breathing exercises could be legally protected.
The case involved Open Source Yoga Unity, an organization based in San Francisco, California, and Choudhury, based in Beverly Hills, California. While details of the settlement are confidential, according to an article by Associated Press legal affairs writer David Kravets, three people involved—speaking on condition of anonymity—confirmed that Choudhury had agreed not to sue the 50 members of the San Francisco–based yoga cooperative for copyright violations. Cooperative members in turn agreed not to advertise the trademarked name “Bikram” without authorization by Choudhury.
Quoting from the case documents, Kravets reported that Judge Phyllis Hamilton, who heard preliminary arguments in January, found it “almost unbelievable that a sequence of yoga positions could be any one person’s intellectual property.” Hamilton ordered that the case go to trial for determination. She said Choudhury’s teachings might deserve copyright protection if “assembled in a sufficiently creative fashion,” but could be used legally by other instructors if they were in yoga’s public domain.
To read the decision related to the trial’s preliminary motion hearing, go online and look up Open Source Yoga Unity v. Bikram Choudhury (N.D. Cal., 4/1/05, No. C 03–3182 PJH).