An article published in India Business Law Journal on 4 February 2014:
Delhi High Court has held that exclusive rights over yoga and pranic exercises, which are derivatives of ancient techniques of yoga in India, are not legally sustainable. No one can be given copyright or trademark over pranic healing asanas and other yoga techniques, as they are not original literary works or dramatic works under the Copyright Act, 1957, and are not capable of distinctiveness under the Trademarks Act, 1999.
In Institute for Inner Studies [IIS] & Ors v Charlotte Anderson & Ors, Philippines- based IIS sought prohibitory orders to restrain Anderson and others from practicing pranic healing techniques and asanas claimed to have been invented by Master Choa Kok Su, and from conducting courses on his teachings.
In a detailed discussion on the definitions of “dramatic works” and “literary works”, the high court held that protection under the Copyright Act cannot be extended to include monopoly right over the performance of the asanas of yoga or pranic healing on the strength of the way they are stated in a book as this would be granting a monopoly right to the art or to techniques which have been in the public domain from time immemorial and which are also found in books by Swami Ramachakra since 1906.
The court followed the position of law stated in a US case involving Bikram Choudhary, who also teaches modern yoga techniques.
The court further held that “pranic healing”, being a generic expression, cannot be monopolized as trademark by IIS as the expression is not capable of distinguishing the services of IIS from others. IIS had secured the registration of the expression from the registrar of trademarks without making a truthful statement as to the proprietorship of the mark applied for on the date of the application, thereby committing fraud on the registrar.
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Volume 7, Issue 7