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Intellectual Property Protections for YOGA

Yoga has become an integral part of everyone's existence; people seek it for fitness, to overcome various health problems, to bring positivity into their lives, and to live a wholesome lifestyle. Owing to this there is an increasing interest in protecting Yoga as Intellectual Property in different forms like Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights and Geographical Indications.
Yoga's inclusion in the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) will eventually benefit India, as it will operate as a barrier to foreign corporations seeking to profit off India's cultural history.

Over the last few decades, there has been an upsurge in the prevalence of Yoga. The word 'Yoga' comes from the Sanskrit root 'Yuj,' which means 'to join, yoke, or unify.' While there are over 100 different styles of yoga, the majority of sessions incorporate breathing exercises, meditation, and taking postures (also known as asana or poses) that stretch and flex various muscle groups. Yoga is not a mere exercise but a spiritual discipline that focuses on bringing mind and body into harmony.


Origin of Yoga

Yoga is believed to have originated in India about 5,000 years ago. As per the yogic lore, Adiyogi, the first Yogi, transmitted the science of Yoga to the legendary Saptrishis or "seven sages".


Due to the oral transmission of sacred writings and the secrecy of its teachings, Yoga's past is riddled with mystery and confusion. Early Yoga literature was recorded on delicate palm leaves that were easily damaged, destroyed, or lost. Although Yoga's origins can be dated back over 5,000 years, other academic experts believe it could be as old as 10,000 years.



Yoga and IP

Yoga has become an integral part of everyone's existence; people seek it for fitness, to overcome various health problems, to bring positivity into their lives, and to live a wholesome lifestyle. Owing to this there is an increasing interest in protecting Yoga as Intellectual Property in different forms like Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights and Geographical Indications. Let’s study IP (patents, copyright, trademark and GI) rights for Yoga.


When Bikram Choudhury attempted to copyright his Hot Yoga Series, it was the last time a link between Yoga and intellectual property was widely discussed.


For the uninitiated, Bikram Choudhury is the creator of Bikram Yoga, a type of hot Yoga that consists of a set of 26 postures performed in a hot atmosphere of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). With a range of celebrity pupils, the firm became a success in the United States and later around the Western world. In 2009, he filed a series of copyright claims against Evolation Yoga in Florida in an attempt to preserve the Bikram Yoga series of poses; however, he was unsuccessful, and other studios continue to teach the series.


Yoga and Patents

There are specific conditions and prerequisites for anything to be patented: it must be innovative, unique, and profitable. If someone were to try to patent a Yoga Asana, they would have to meet all of these requirements. A Yoga pose cannot be new or unique because it has existed since ancient times, as evidenced by numerous scriptures present in India like the Vedas and the Upanishads.

The practice of Yoga cannot be patented, however, the material, equipment or accessories that assist in practicing Yoga can be patented.

Yoga mats, clothes specially made for performing Yoga, Yoga blocks, Yoga wheel, etc. are some items that fall under the patentability criteria and can be patented.


Yoga and Copyrights

Regarding the definitions of "dramatic works" and "literary works," it is evident that the Copyright Act cannot be extended to include a monopoly right over the performance of Yoga asanas or pranic healing based on the way they are stated in a book.