Founder of bikram yoga claims he copyrighted the exercise form, but did he?

South Florida was one of the first places bikram yoga ever took off. In fact, one of the first bikram studios in the country opened in Miami in 1985, and now there are plenty of fans of this form of exercise in Naples, Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres as well.

Interestingly enough, bikram yoga is now at the center of a very unusual intellectual property dispute.

Bikram Chaudhury, the founder of bikram yoga, has made millions off of this form of exercise and off of the chain of studios he founded. He claims to have have copyrighted bikram yoga and is now suing a former student of his who went on to found his own rival chain of bikram yoga studios.

But did he actually copyright “bikram yoga”? Is a form of exercise even copyrightable?

Copyrights are granted to works of authorship that are expressed in a fixed, tangible medium. A novel could be copyrighted, for example, because it is represented in a fixed, tangible medium (i.e. a book), but an idea that a novelist had but never wrote down could not be because it was never written down.

So, is a form of exercise even copyrightable? Even the U.S. Copyright Office isn’t so sure. On June 22, it released a statement saying that any copyright protection granted to Chaudhury may have been granted “in error” and that it would be investigating the matter.

Based only on what you have read here, does it seem to make sense that bikram yoga could be copyrighted?

Source: The Miami New Times, “Bikram Yoga Copyright Lawsuit: Miami Weighs In,” Rebecca Moss and Jon Tayler, July 19, 2012