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Indian yoga guru sues student for copying technique
New York, Dec 2 (PTI) A multi-millionaire Indian yoga guru in the US is suing his former student for over a million dollars for copying his unique ''Bikram Yoga'' style of exercises that involve workouts in a 105 degree-fahrenheit room.
Kolkata-born Bikram Choudhury is the founder of ''Bikram Yoga'' and has copyrighted his unique hot yoga classes.
In the lawsuit filed in a California court for copyright infringement, Choudhury, 65 is seeking monetary damages in excess of a million dollars and asking a federal judge to block ''Yoga to the People'', founded by his old student Greg Gumucio, from offering similar hot yoga classes.
Choudhury has alleged in the lawsuit that Gumucio''s yoga studios offer a ''Traditional Hot Yoga'' class that is identical to his ''Bikram Yoga'', which is a 26 posture sequence practiced in a 105 degree (40 degree Celsius) ''Torture Chamber''.
"The hot yoga class is taught in the same ambient enviornment as Bikram Yoga in order to give students the impression that the class offers the same experience and benefits a student would have at a Bikram Yoga studio," the 25-page lawsuit says.
In the lawsuit, Choudhary alleges that Gumucio had entered into an agreement with him that prohibited him from using the Bikram Yoga brand name and trademark in any form and teaching his style of yoga to others.
It costs USD 10,000 per teacher to be certified as a Bikram instructor, according to the lawsuit.
While a Bikram Yoga class costs USD 25, Gumucio''s chain of yoga studios charges eight dollars for the class.
Choudhury''s lawyer Robert Gilchrest said he had an investigator take Gumucio''s classes, which were "virtually mirror images and the dialogue was consistently the same."
Gumucio opened Yoga to the People in New York''s East Village in 2006. The chain currently has five studios in the city as well as in California and Seattle.
In the suit, Choudhury states that those aspiring to become ''Bikram teachers'' must take his formal nine-week, USD 7,000 course and once certified, instructors must obtain his permission to open studios.
Choudhury said he had to close one of his studios in Manhattan because "the presence of our competitors," namely Yoga to the People, "has made it impossible for us to continue".
Gumucio has said he never agreed to abide by Choudhury
s rules and that was why he parted ways with him.
"I have never agreed with Bikram and his idea that he owned the yoga, or that he should sue anyone."
Gumucio said his sequence of poses is not exactly the same as Choudhury''s.
This is not the first time Choudhury has resorted to legal action against imitators.
He is currently suing two other studios for copyright infringement and had reached a monetary settlement with a Los Angeles studio in 2003.
http://news.in.msn.com/international/ar ... id=5643848
I practice Bikram Yoga, and I can't see how anybody could possibly break even offering drop-in classes for $8. The overhead on a Hot Yoga studio is huge if it's properly constructed, maintained, and staffed.
Bikram's classes cost about $20 for drop-in where I live, but if you buy a membership and practice frequently, the cost per class is much less; about $5.50 per class for a 3X weekly practice.
My feeling about this lawsuit is that it's not necessary. Any studio trying to compete with Bikram at that much of a price discount can't possibly offer the same experience as a certified Bikram studio.
I'll admit freely and openly that I'm biased on this subject because I love the yoga and what it does for my body, and also the Bikram yoga community feels to me like a very welcoming, loving family...
I meant to say, I think the competition will be short-lived and self-limiting with that extreme price discount and impossibility of providing a quality experience at such a price.My feeling about this lawsuit is that it's not necessary. Any studio trying to compete with Bikram at that much of a price discount can't possibly offer the same experience as a certified Bikram studio.
Much later, the Maharishi Mahesh packaged TM as a franchise, selling meditation and yoga, charging people to become "teachers". Suddenly, what was a sacred Hindu ritual now became "religion at McDonald's"---a truly western free marketing idea.
Genius! The Maharishi became incredibly wealthy.
TM devotees and teachers all vouch for the wonderful "experience" just as Ramtha students due at RSE. Experience is always subjective [we all have our biases, as Ponysong indicated], so evaluating any group or yoga objectively has to go beyond experience.
This lawsuit is not about how good or bad the experience is because both sides can produce witnesses who will endorse whatever school they are in no matter what the price.
The outcome will depend on proof that
1. Bikram has a patented product.
2. The competition violated the patent.
If Bikram loses, he will have to deal with free market principles at work since he entered that business market. You can drive to the mall in a Mercedes if you choose, but a well maintained Corolla will do as well and last as long. Welcome to America!
The court will have to look back at TM, est, and Scientology ripoff lawsuits of that kind to see what was decided and how.
eg, a current lawsuit:
http://www.exploreseiowa.com/-12-1--Med ... -/11621086
http://www.heartlandconnection.com/news ... ?id=692133
Personally, I find the entire Bikram debacle ludicrous because of what I mentioned above re Patanjali--he never had a patent on yoga!
Agreed. My comments about the experience don't pertain to the success or failure of the lawsuit, only to the commercial viability of the competitor's product.The outcome will depend on proof that
1. Bikram has a patented product.
2. The competition violated the patent.
Joe, on the question of the patentability of the Bikram Yoga product; from this article:
http://abcnews.go.com/International/sto ... tmL61apRpg
"The U.S. Patent Office maintains that it has not given out patents for yoga routines but has granted numerous patents for yoga-related products." That's as of 2007, so there's likely no hope for a lawsuit on the grounds of patent infringement.
But your reference to McDonald's is pertinent! As in other successful franchises, the Bikram Yoga experience is remarkably homogeneous, based on my experience in multiple studios in Canada and the US.
The "dialogue" delivered by Bikram teachers during class is very consistent (one of the strengths of the practice, in my opinion), and I believe it's copyrighted. That may be the only hope for Choudhury to challenge this competitor; by proving the copyrighted dialogue has been stolen.
Interestingly, JZ Knight keeps getting some customers at her quantum mind circus despite the fact there is, "cheaper," woot-woot spirituality elsewhere. Well, I do suppose that discount spirituality does fare better in the marketplace - evidenced by the fact Deepak Chopra's been on Oprah's TV show and he no doubt sells a lot more books than JZ Knight too.
patent was a poor choice of words. I meant by "patented" as in anything trademarked, patented, or copyrighted under law. I have no idea how "legalized" bikram hothouse yoga is. The currrent TM suits are more about trademark infringement.
JZ/R does get touchy about trademark [whitewind] and perhaps that is what bikram is about??
I still puzzle over how Penny Torres got away with Mafu so readily and still does...talk about blatant ripoff! that was one of the best yet in the cult wars. THAT would have been an enormous catfight that would have been fun to watch. I mean Penny/Mafu called JZ faking Ramtha out on Oprah, if you recall, saying the "real spirit" left JZ in the late 1980s and therefore that energy or entity had to find another channel, thus the similarity. Clever, clever.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 7740841175#
I guess JZ needs a friendly venue like Germany to get the poo she flings to stick to the wall in order to win a, "Ramtha," copyright battle. Penny/Mafu really is very similar - she's smart enough not to use any of the raft of JZ's trademarked words.