Bikram Choudhury, the eccentric Beverly Hills yoga master who once said in a Business 2.0 interview, “I have balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me,” has been suing practitioners he accuses of illicitly teaching his particular style of yoga (26 postures, done twice each in a >105-degree-hot room). Now, one group of yoga enthusiasts is suing back.
bq. Choudhury, America’s best known and most controversial yogi, opened one of his first yoga schools in San Francisco in 1973 and now boasts 900 studios worldwide. He copyrighted, trademarked and franchised his poses, breathing techniques and dialogue, creating the first chain of its kind. He also hired lawyers who set loose a flurry of cease-and-desist letters warning yoga teachers in the Bay Area and beyond not to teach his yoga or anything “derivative” if they haven’t graduated from his $5,000-per-person training program and are not paying a studio franchise fee. His letters threaten a penalty of $150,000 per infringement.
bq. Now, a San Francisco nonprofit organization of yoga enthusiasts from San Rafael to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is countering with a federal lawsuit attacking the guru’s claim that yoga is proprietary. They say that yoga is a 5,000-year- old tradition that cannot be owned. The suit is asking the judge to determine whether Choudhury is entitled to copyright and trademark his material under federal copyright laws. A trial date has been set for next February.