India vs. West Over Yoga Copyrights

This could make Bikram’s legal adventures look like small claims court. Apparently, the Indian government is seeking to protect it’s heritage, and to break up what they see as Western monopolies on Yoga and Ayurveda, which is a $27 billion-a-year business in the U.S. alone.
I REALLY want to hear what the folks at Open Source Yoga Unity have to say about this.

From the article: “The government is making a digital database of 1,500 yoga postures and their therapeutic properties that can be used to overthrow the 134 patents on yoga accessories, 150 yoga-related copyrights and 2,315 yoga trademarks the U.S. Patent Office has granted so far, sources said.”

((LK: So, India is seeking to prevent the granting of trademarks, copyrights and patents on yoga in the future. They hope that the database would also help avoid costly litigation to reverse the rights already granted by appealing to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). ))

I first heard about this issue back in January of this year – specifically in relation to Ayurvedic herbs and formulas. What follows is an exchange I had with David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri) after I e-mailed him inquiring about it:

Jan. 3, 2005
Namaste Leslie,

Yes, the multinationals are busy pirating the plant resources of every country they can, particularly in the third world. The government of India has put up some resistance but not a lot. Ayurvedic groups lack the resources to fight back in a strong manner. This has been a problem for some time.

Of course it is not the only such problem. For example, Coca Cola recently bought out and took over all the major soft drink and bottled water companies in India, hurting many local businesses. But now the government of India requires that Coca Cola is labeled as containing pesticides, which at least in India it does.

Meanwhile we are busy in the West trademarking, franchising and mass producing Yoga. One wonders what this has to do with real Yoga but it is the commercial era moving blindly ahead.

Best Wishes,

Jan. 4, 2005
Hi David.

Thanks for the prompt reply.

One point I’d make, in response to your comment: “it is the commercial era moving blindly ahead”

I don’t think commerce is blind at all. To the contrary, merchants are always looking at a vast and varied market. That’s why there’s a form of “yoga” for every potential “consumer” of yoga.

If anything, by their very nature in regards to Yoga, it’s the consumer that lacks vision. The way I see it, as long as the market remains free, the cream does rise to the top, and the exploiters, no matter how temporarily successful they may become, will eventually sink to the bottom. After all, how can you enjoy your Roll-Royce collection if you’ve sacrificed your soul in order to acquire it?



Jan. 6, 2005
Namaste Leslie,

You never cease to amaze me with your views.
If consumerism brings the cream to the top, I suppose that Coca Cola ought to be the most healthy drink in the world.
In any case, your views at least are thought provoking.

Best wishes,

Jan. 6, 2005
Hi David.

I’m tickled to think I’m still capable of amazing you.

C’mon. You know as well as I that Coca-Cola hasn’t been marketed as a health product since the turn of the century, when it did indeed contain cocaine. Back in 1885 it was quite common to use cocaine in patent medicines (which is what Coca-Cola was originally marketed as).

My internet research reveals that as time went on, the amount of cocaine gradually dwindled, until by 1902 it was as little as 1/400 of a grain of cocaine per ounce of syrup. Coca-Cola didn’t become completely cocaine-free until 1929, but there was scarcely any of the drug left in the drink by then.

Isn’t Google a wonderful thing?

(( In any case, your views at least are thought provoking.))

As are yours.



2 thoughts on “India vs. West Over Yoga Copyrights”

  1. I think Leslie misses David’s point about consumerism: if it is not blind and the cream does rise to the top, then coca cola should be a shining example of what the market can do. David suggested it should be a healthy drink, Leslie seems to think he meant it was marketed as a healthy drink. The problem is that coke is destructive to health and should not have the clout it does ie., to buy out all competition in India and serve up pesticides.

  2. Indians invented the zero. They should copyright that. In the realm of intellectual ‘properties’, nothin’s worth a big somethin’. As far as all these rights to traditional knowledges go, the west is imposing standards and copyrights on properties that belong to Isvara, and He/She is distributng them as free shareware.
    Love & pranams,
    Willliam Forbes

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