Tuesday 23 June 2015

Yoga - India’s Gift to the World! International Day of Yoga celebrated on June 21

Yoga - India’s Gift to the World!

International Day of Yoga celebrated on June 21

In 2014 Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi during his UN General Assembly Speech called for observing International Day of Yoga and remarked it as “India’s Gift to the World”. Pursuant to his proposal, the UN on December 10, 2014 declared June 21 as “International Day of Yoga”, recognizing that Yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being.

Through the resolution, adopted under the agenda of 'Global Health and Foreign Policy,' the 193-member general assembly decided to proclaim June 21 every year as the 'International Day of Yoga'. June 21 was decided as International Day of Yoga as it is the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere and has special significance in many parts of the world.

The Rajpath became Yogpath on Sunday when 35,985 participants from 84 nationalities performed asanas at one venue for 35 minutes with the Indian Prime Minister. 

The Ministry for AYUSH was awarded two world records by Guinness World Records (GWR) officials at a ceremony at The Ashok for 'Largest Yoga lesson' and 'Most nationalities in Yoga lesson'.

While the whole world is stretching its muscles, we thought of analysing the IP perspective of YOGA.
  1.        I.  Yoga & Trademark
Trademark Search revealed that about 30 trademarks comprising of the term “YOGA” have been registered in several classes in India. A non-exhaustive list of registered trademarks are below:
Registration No.
Premchand Devchand Shah
Class 3- Aggarbathies and dhoop
Registered, however the valid upto date is not mentioned on Trademark Registry’s website
Apollo Pencils Pvt. Ltd.
Class 16- Lead Pencils
Registered, however the valid upto date is not mentioned on Trademark Registry’s website

Amrish Krishnaraj Mody
Class 3- Bleaching Preparations And Other Substances For Laundry Use, Cleaning Polishing Scouring And Abrasive Preparations, Soaps, Perfumery, Essential Oils, Cosmetics, Hair Lotions, Dentifrices
Registered, however the valid upto date is not mentioned on Trademark Registry’s website

Jose Joseph
Class 25- Footwear
Registered and valid upto January 28, 2020

Sanjeev Rajpal
Class 7- Cutting Machine, Cutting Blades, Electric Circular Saw, Electric Jig Saw, Electric Grinders, Electric Tools, Electric Tools, Electric Motor, Welding Machine, Power And Machine And Machine Tools Included In Class 7
Registered and valid upto December 09, 2023

Akshay Thapar
Registered and valid upto May 19, 2018

Shri Shamsher Singh Nandwani
Class 25- Readymade garments and hosiery goods
Registered and valid upto October 16, 2018

Zergroup Holding
Class 9- Nautical, Surveying, Photographic, Cinematographic, Optical, Weighing, Measuring, Signalling, Checking (Supervision), Life-Saving And Teaching Apparatus And Instruments; Apparatus And Instruments For Conducting, Switching, Transforming, Accumulating, Regulating Or Controlling Electricity; Apparatus For Recording, Transmission Or Reproduction Of Sound Or Images; Magnetic Data
Registered and valid upto May 27, 2019

Sri Nakoda Enterprises
Class 34- Match Boxes
Registered and valid upto may 11, 2020

In addition to the registered marks, the search revealed certain marks which are pending registration. Some of the marks noteworthy were Yoga /filed vide Application No. 2910241 in the name of  KRISHNA MUNSHI for services in class 41 i.e. for provision of sports, health club, gymnasium, fitness center, fitness activities, and provision of recreation, amusement facilities and activities, including aerobics, dances, choreography, forms of exercises, cinema theatre, art gallery services, provision of training, lecture and instructional guidelines, facilities and services, educational lifestyle, and  filed vide Application No. 1988253 in the name of  BHARAT THAKUR for services in class 41 i.e. for training in yoga, yoga instructions. The said applications are pending registration before the Trade Marks Registry.

Court’s Stance on Registration of YOGA related terms as a Trademark

Institute for Inner Studies & Ors. Vs. Charlotte Anderson & Ors.  (CS(OS) 2252/2011)- In this case, the Plaintiff sought to restrain the Defendants from teaching the asanas, which were claimed to have been developed by their founder, and also claimed proprietary rights over the term Yoga. However, the Hon'ble Delhi High Court ruled that exclusive rights over yoga asanas and pranic healing, which are derivatives of ancient yoga techniques in India, cannot be claimed under Indian law of Trademarks and the Indian Copyright Act. 
 II.    Yoga & Copyright

The specific question of whether copyright subsists in yoga asanas was discussed in the U.S. in Bikram Yoga Case where the Court held that yoga asanas do not satisfy the requirements of a dramatic work and that it cannot be considered choreography because of the simplicity of its sequences.

Bikram Yoga Case

Bikram’s Yoga College Evolution Yoga, 105 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1162 - In this case, Mr. Bikram Choudhury, an Indian yoga teacher residing in the U.S. and founder of Bikram Yoga, a form of hot yoga performed in a series of 26 hatha yoga postures done in a hot environment of 40 °C, wrote a book called Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class, and registered his copyright in this work with the Copyright Office. Interestingly, Mr. Choudhury was not only claiming rights in the book itself but also in the sequence of 26 asanas taught in the book.

An organization called Open Source Yoga Unity challenged this registration and asked the U.S. District Court, California to issue a declaratory judgment saying that Mr. Choudhury could not have exclusive rights over the sequence of 26 yoga asanas.

The courts left the decision up to a jury to determine if the sequence was protectable, but the case was settled and a decision was never reached.

However, someone put this question to the US Copyright Office for its opinion on the matter, and in June 2012, the agency issued its Policy Statement, which concluded that sequences of yoga asanas—or any sequence of exercises or movements, excluding choreography—could not be protected as compilations, because these were not compilations of literary works, musical works or any of the other kinds of works protected by Copyright law.

Within six months, the Policy Statement formed the basis of another court’s decision. In December 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California was faced with another dispute over Bikram Yoga. This time, the court held that as a matter of law, a sequence of yoga asanas cannot be copyrighted and the Copyright Office’s Policy Statement agreed with it.

Indian Court’s Stance on Copyright over YOGA

Institute for Inner Studies v. Charlotte Anderson CS(OS) 2252/2011

In this case, the Plaintiffs argued that the Defendants’ use of the yoga techniques-
i.  amounted to an infringement of the copyright in literary works under The Copyright Act, 1957;
ii.  the yoga postures and Asanas which state the manner of performing the Pranic Healing is a choreography work that deserves protection as a dramatic expression.
  1. Yoga as an original literary work

    The Court referred to the US District Court case of Bikram’s Yoga College v. Evolution Yoga, where the issue pertained to according copyright protection to yoga exercises. The Court held that: “There is a distinction between a creative work that compiles a series of exercises and the compilation of exercises itself. The former is copyrightable, the latter is not.” The Hon'ble Delhi High Court accepted this line of case law and ruled that the Plaintiff could not state that copyright protection for the performance of Pranic Healing techniques can be accorded on the basis of the copyright claim in the book describing, illustrating and compiling the exercises or Asanas of Pranic Healing. The protection will be restricted to the compilation that has been done by the Master, the language and the manner of explanations employed by him in his book and the pictorial content in the book and not for the performance of the techniques themselves.

  2. Yoga as a dramatic work 

    As discussed earlier, the specific question of yoga asanas was discussed in the U.S. in the Bikram’s Yoga College case where the Court held that yoga asanas do not satisfy the requirements of a dramatic work and that it cannot be considered choreography because of the simplicity of its sequences. This was because, in the opinion of the Court, “A mere compilation of physical movements does not rise to the level of choreographic authorship unless it contains sufficient attributes of a work of choreography. And although a choreographic work, such as a ballet or abstract modern dance, may incorporate simple routines, social dances, or even exercise routines as elements of the overall work, the mere selection and arrangement of physical movements does not in itself support a claim of choreographic authorship.” Applying the following requirements to the instant case, the Court held that Pranic Healing cannot be accorded copyright protection as a dramatic work.
III.   Yoga & Patent

Patents filed with Indian Patent Office related to Yoga and Yoga accessories:

Application No.
Method and Apparatus for Yoga Class Imaging And Streaming
YogaGlo Inc.
Awaiting Examination
Yoga Device
Ashim Ghosh
Awaiting Examination
A Seating Device for Supporting a user sitting in a Cross Legged Yoga Position
Ashim Ghosh

According to reports, by 2008, the US Patent and Trademark Office had issued 150 yoga-related copyrights and 2,315 yoga trademarks. 

Patent & Yoga controversies

1.         The India-US patent controversy

Initially Intellectual Property (IP) was considered to be a field which affects only certain kinds of industries- technical inventions, music, designs, geographical indications, movies.

Lately, an industry like yoga too is not untouched with the unsavoury Intellectual Property controversies rising up worldwide, particularly in the United States. Today, Yoga and IP seem to be a hot-button issue.

Yoga, an ancient Hindu discipline of mind and body, attributes its origin in India dating back to more than 5000 years ago. However, it seems to be more popular in the U.S. With an estimated 20 million American yoga practitioners, fueling US$27 billion, yoga has become a gigantic industry in the US. There are about 100,000 yoga instructors in the U.S., while an unofficial estimate puts the number of teachers in India at 175,000. 

India has been disapproving towards attempts by foreign yoga teachers claiming that each pose in their class is not part of the traditional Yoga practice, but their own unique invention.

Considering the strained situation, the Indian Government cautioned the U.S. Government of the patents filed pertaining to Yoga Asanas (Yoga postures). As a pre-emptive measure, the Indian Government is making digital copies of ancient drawings showing the provenance of more than 4,000 yoga poses, to discourage further claims by entrepreneurs like Mr. Bikram Choudhury. 

India has established a team of Hindu gurus and 200 scientists to identify all ancient yoga positions or asanas and register each one to stop "patent pirates" from stealing its "traditional knowledge".

As of now, they have added 600 asanas to India's Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) to stop the so-called gurus in the United States and Europe from patenting established yoga poses as their own.

2.      YogaGlo 

The online yoga video website YogaGlo filed U.S. Patent No. 8,605,152 claiming to cover a “method and apparatus for yoga class imaging and streaming” taking priority from 13/763,569 (‘569). YogaGlo  had previously filed U.S. Patent Application 13/220,621 (‘621) on August 29, 2011. Original ’621 Application was literally identical to the original ’569 Application. Both the applications were rejected by the USPTO Examiners.

In spite of having both the patent applications initially rejected on multiple grounds, YogaGlo sent cease and desist letters to its numerous competitors providing online yoga instructions, including Yoga International and YogaDownload on August 26, 2013.

YogaGlo amended its specification which led to patent grant on October 29, 2013 and was allotted Patent No. US 8605152.

Yoga International, concerned by the idea that a company could get a patent on filming a yoga class, told the yoga community about the letter and the yoga community went into an uproar. Yoga Alliance, a quasi-trade association, started a petition asking YogaGlo to withdraw its patent applications and received over 14,000 signatures.

IV. Yoga & Design

Yoga is about 6000 years old physical, mental and spiritual science, originated in India, aiming to provide better health and transform the body and mind. The practice of yoga involves a lots of physical movement, bending and stretching.

Specially designed Yoga mats, towels and apparels are available in the market to be used during Yoga practice.

Below is the design infringement case related to Yoga pants:

Lululemon Athletica Canada Inc. vs. Calvin Klein Inc.
  1. On August 13, 2012, Lululemon Athletica Canada Inc. filed a complaint against Calvin Klein Inc. and G-III Apparel Group. Ltd. in the United States District Court, Delaware alleging that its design patents: D645,644, D661,872 and D662,281 are infringed by the defendants.
  2. It claimed Calvin Klein was selling pants that "have infringed and are still infringing" on three patents, including one for a distinctive waistband featuring overlapping panels of fabric.
  3. Later, Lululemon Athletica reached an out-of-court settlement with Calvin Klein, dismissing the lawsuit.

To view the complaint, please click here


Until now, Yoga was open to everyone but the sudden increase in patent, copyright, and trademark cases has caused anxiety within the Indian Patent and Trade Marks Office. In response, the Government of India has begun the documentation of yoga asanas. The Indian Patent office is creating the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) listing all known yoga poses, and making it available to patent offices worldwide so as to protect traditional intellectual information from being pirated. This timely precaution is being taken to avoid another case of Turmeric, Neem, or Basmati.

Traditional knowledge and practice like that found within Yoga could have been used by India to create wealth in the form of royalties. But instead, to quote Prime Minister Modi, it is India’s gift to the world!

S.S. Rana & Co. associates and employees participated at various forums to celebrate the International Day of Yoga and to show support for this traditional knowledge.