NATIONWIDE — Although media outlets in India and London have recently reported that applications had been filed to patent yoga moves in the United States, experts say a patent wouldn't affect U.S. yoga classes even if one exists. Also, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which has 700,000 pending patent applications, has not been able to identify any U.S. patent that is directed to a yoga position.
“The Indian claim of intellectual property rights in Ayurvedic medicine does not affect classes or studios, since India is not asking for payment of any licensing fees for use of traditional yogic moves,” says Shirley Archer, who has written on the issue as a contributing editor and monthly columnist for IDEA Fitness Journal. “What it is meant to circumvent is a claim of property right in yoga moves such as the one Bikram [Yoga] asserted.”
Bikram Yoga, started by Bikram Choudhury, has been granted many copyrights, including a copyright of 26 poses and two breathing exercises. The copyrights have been a source of controversy for years among mind/body professionals.
John Marcoux, Bikram Yoga's general counsel, cites confusion of the terms “patent” and “copyright” for the recent uproar.
According to the USPTO, a patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor. An inventor doesn't have to sell their invention, but they have the right to exclude others from making or selling the invention.
A copyright protects authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. A copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing.