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Copyright dispute over yoga poses goes to federal court

The U. S. District Court in Los Angeles ruled that yoga poses cannot be subject to copyright in a business litigation case between a yoga college in India and several yoga studios in various cities. The U. S. Copyright Office had already ruled that a sequence of yoga poses could not be copyrighted, but the Indian company brought suit anyway against yoga studios in Los Angeles and New York.

The owner of the yoga college contended that he had thought up the unique sequence and deserved protection from others copying his intellectual property. However, the federal judge ruling on the case stated that books or photographs depicting certain arrangements of exercises could be copyrighted, but the sequence itself is not protected by copyright law, as the U. S. Copyright Office stated. He noted that individual poses are not subject to copyright law, and therefore the sequence itself could not be protected.

The issue of trademark infringement alleged by the plaintiff still remains to be decided. The New York studio has already settled its case by agreeing not use the sequence in the future. The other studio has stalled in negotiations with the college, however, and refused to admit that copyright might be an issue prior to the ruling.

Infringement of copyright or trademark can be a complicated subject, as this case shows. Some copyright violations are easy to spot while others involve a more abstract interpretation of copyright law. A business attorney can give companies advice prior to using possible copyrighted or trademarked material in order to avoid expensive litigation on the subject.

Source: Bloomberg, "Yoga, AstraZeneca, Intel, UN: Intellectual Property," Ellen Rosen, Dec. 17, 2012

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