Bikram Yoga Does Not Own Copyright on Hot Yoga Poses

traverselegal - December 18, 2012 - Copyright Law, What Is Copyright Infringement

Traverse Copyright Law has represented multiple defendants sued by Choudhury Bikram and the Bikram Yoga College alleging copyright infringement. Bikram Yoga has sued other studios over the years for offering Hot Yoga variations of the Bikram Yoga Method. In 2012, the United States Copyright Office issued a letter indicating that the previously issued copyright to Bikram for its yoga pose sequence was issued in error. Once the United States Copyright Office abandoned its allowance of the Bikram copyright, it was only a question of time before courts would soon follow.

In one recent case, a federal judge in Los Angeles, California ruled that federal copyright law does not allow for copyright protection on the selection, coordination or arrangement of exercise.

What does this mean for yoga studios offering Hot Yoga or variations of Bikram’s yoga sequences? While Choudhury Bikram has been extremely litigious in filing copyright lawsuits against studios using his sequence of poses, it appears that his copyright bully tactics are coming to an end. While there is always risk of getting sued in court, Bikram’s copyright leverage is greatly diminished. Some tips for yoga studios offering Hot Yoga alternatives:

  1. Do not use the word “Bikram” in any way as part of your marketing or class presentation. Bikram owns a trademark for the words “Bikram” and “Bikram Yoga College” which they may still be able to use in order to file trademark infringement litigation.
  2. Understand that teachers who formerly taught the Bikram Method may be subject to contracts which preclude them from participating in Hot Yoga alternatives as instructors. One key note is that Bikram’s counsel has previously stated that Bikram did not sign the Bikram Teacher Training Certificate as a matter of course. In one recent suit, the issue of whether or not the contract was binding on Bikram certified teachers was litigated. Because the teacher training agreement indicated that it must be signed by both parties, the issue of whether or not the contract was valid became primary.
  3. Understand that even if the law is on your side, Choudhury Bikram has tremendous financial resources to wield against you. Chances are, your little yoga studio can’t fund federal court litigation filed against you. Be smart. But certainly enjoy the free market.

For more information on Bikram Yoga College, its copyright, Teacher Training Agreement and trademarks, feel free to contact one of our attorneys for more information.

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