The Frontier of IP (Part 5)


In the last in our series about the frontier of intellectual property law, we look at the use of copyright law (roughly 300 years old) to protect yoga poses (roughly 2300 years old). An enterprising yoga instructor – Bikram Choudry - managed to obtain copyright registration for certain poses as part of an intellectual property portfolio that includes protection for “posture sequences”, trade-marks and instructor-certification agreements.

In a lawsuit against another licensed studio (Bikram’s Yoga College of India L.P. v. Yoga to the People, Inc.), the studios are in a pitched battle (cue the “warrior pose”) over the right to use the styles and postures that are allegedly the property of Bikram. The US Copyright Office recently weighed in, saying that exercise poses “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.” This case illustrates an interesting twist on the “future” of IP, by protecting (some would argue ancient) postures through the tools offered by copyright and trade-mark law.

In Canada, the case of Pastor v. Chen, 2002 BCPC 169 (CanLII) addressed a dispute over choreographed dance moves and the court’s review of confidentiality and copyright protection. Although the reasoning in that decision is somewhat inconsistent (protection affforded by copyright should not depend on whether the material qualifies as “confidential information”), the Court in the end did agree that the choreography was eligible for copyright protection. 

Calgary – 07:00 MST

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