In a recent judgment pronounced by Delhi High Court with regards to the case of Institute for Inner studies Vs Charlotte Anderson, it was clarified that exclusive rights over yoga asanas and pranic healing, which are derivatives of ancient yoga technique in India cannot be claimed under Indian Trade Mark Law and Indian Copyright Law. A Philippines-based Institute for Inner Studies(IIS) sought to restrain some persons from teaching the 'asanas' (postures) claimed to be developed by Master Choa Kok Sui, who is the founder of the institute.IIS also stated that their yoga techniques and ‘Pranic healing’ were claimed under copyright and trademark laws of the country.
With regards to the trademark infringement, the Court clarified that that the expression‘Pranic Healing’existed already in a book written by Swami Ramachakra in 1906, therefore it falls in a public domain. Also it was observed that the word ‘Pranic healing’ is a generic term and hence not coined by Master Choa Kok Sui of IIS. Obviously, there is a lack of distinctiveness as required by Section 9 of the TradeMarks Act. The Court noted that IIS made ‘false claim’ as to the proprietorship of the trademark as the expression was neither distinctive nor capable of distinguishing the goods and services of one person from that of another.
With regards to copyright, IIS claimed copyright over 9 titles of book written by the Master, CD Roms and trade literature where the techniques were complied. IIS further claimed that the performance of ‘Pranic Healing’ technique was a work of choreography and hence copyrightable under Section 13(a) of Copyright Act, 1957 as a “dramatic work”. The Court after detailed analysis, discussed the idea and expression of ideas dichotomy and reinstated that a copyright can be obtained over the manner in which the Master of IIS has demonstrated as to how pranayam can be performed and in a specific way that they had illustrated it. However, IIS cannot claim copyright ownership over pranic healing or any other yoga techniques per se, which is a part of traditional knowledge since the time of Maharishi Patanjali. The Court mentioned Section 2(h) of the Copyright Act which defines a “dramatic work” and cited Bikram’s Yoga(2012) case as an example in concluding that mere selection and arrangement of physical movements and naming it as ‘Pranic Healing’ will not make it a work of choreography and hence ruled out copyright protection as dramatic work.