No Copyright/Trademark in Yoga, Other Asanas: HC

Exclusive rights over yoga and pranic exercises, which are derivatives of ancient technique of yoga in India, cannot be claimed under the Copyright Act, the Delhi High Court has held.

The court made the observations while rejecting the plea of Philippines-based Institute for Inner Studies seeking to restrain some persons from teaching the 'asanas' (postures) claimed to be developed by the founder of the institute.

The court relied upon the position of law on the matter in the US and noted that the court there had denied protection to Yoga asanas in case of Bikram Choudhary who is also teaching modern yoga techniques in the US.

A bench of justice Manmohan Singh also held that the expression 'Pranic Healing' cannot be monopolised as trademark by the institute.

"The expression 'Pranic healing' as on the date of the application for the registration was prima facie non distinctive and was the name of the art or technique of doing exercise which was a facet of Yoga.

"The expression was not capable of distinguishing the services of the plaintiff from others due to its wide spread use in the field dating back from centuries ago," the bench said in its 150-page judgement.

The court delivered the judgement on a petition filed by the Institute, which was established by Late Samson Lim Choachuy, Master Choa Kok Sui, on April 27, 1987 and has trusts in various cities in India and the sub-continent.

The institute had moved the high court seeking prohibitory orders against one Charlotte Anderson and others from practicing pranic healing and conducting courses of the asanas adapted by the Master "without proper guidelines and issuing certificates or using literature" of the Master.

"The trade marks which have secured by the plaintiffs in India are all secured post the year 2000 as is evident from the list.

"If the expression Pranic Healing was the name of the art or technique of Yoga in the year 1906 finding place in the books in the field of Yoga, it prima facie appears to be highly doubtful as to how the expression is either inherently distinctive or for that matter capable of distinguishing the goods of one person from that of another.

"Having not made a truthful statement as to proprietorship of the mark pranic healing, the plaintiffs have secured the registration of the expression from the Registrar of the trade mark without informing about the correct proprietorship of the mark applied for on the date of the application."

The bench said, "The said act of withholding the information or making incorrect claim of the proprietorship of the mark in legal parlance is termed as committing fraud upon the register."

The court also rejected the argument of the Institute that the pranic healing asanas tought by them are protected under the Copyright Act as dramatic works, which also include work of dance and pantomime.

The bench held that though dance and silent dance/ postures may lead to protection as dramatic works but where there are doubts as to the certainty of the subject matter and the same is not scripted, it cannot be said that the same is protectable.

"Yoga exercises and Pranic healing techniques are not scripted and there is no certainty in the performance in such cases and they cannot be called as merely dramatic works/ per

While barring Anderson and others from restraining reproduction, distribution or selling of the copies of the books and literature authored by the Master, the court allowed her to continue to deal in the work co-authored by her.

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