Friday, May 4, 2012

India Patents Yoga Poses

"India has made available a list of 1,300 newly registered yoga poses, compiled to prevent the ancient moves from being exploited by patent pirates, the Times of India said.

Hindu gurus and some 200 scientists compiled the list from 16 ancient texts to prevent yoga teachers in the United States and Europe from patenting established poses as their own."

Last year, I wrote a post about the lawsuits of hot yoga businessman Bikram against other yoga teachers using similar poses/sequences to the ones his studios off. In that post, I wrote the following:

I find lawsuits of this nature, involving attempts to control the spread of religious/spiritual practices and teachings, quite troubling. Finding the line between an individual or organization's new and original work, and the historical underpinnings of that work is rarely an easy task. In addition, the whole infusion of monetary settlements, patent rights, and proprietary controls, while seemingly a correct response in a capitalist society, creates a shift away from basic protections of religious/spiritual teachers and institutions, and towards a corporate re-culturing.

The decision to patent yoga poses is a direct response to the actions of people like Bikram. It's also an intelligent counter-use of a capital tool in my opinion. This isn't the first time India has gone this route. Some of you might recall that the neem tree was under threat for decades, until multiple court cases led to the revoking of patents in 2005. Biopiracy continues to be a major threat across the globe, however, as are other aspects of the modern colonialism, which is what the actions of folks like Bikram should rightly be called.

Trying to claim ownership over ancient spiritual practices is a pretty sick business. But it's been a quite popular one.

In the United States alone, the patent authorities have issued more than 130 yoga-related patents, 150 copyrights and 2,300 trademarks related to the ancient practice.

I'll be honest. The entire patent system is problematic in my view. It assumes a kind of individualism and separated genius I just don't believe in. And so, I hope actions like this one by Indian leaders might eventually lead to a rethinking of the whole works.


Mumon K said...

It assumes a kind of individualism and separated genius I just don't believe in.

No it doesn't. It assumes that certain privileges accrue to those who have done things that are recognized as useful, and are significantly different than what others have done.

The issue you really have is what "significantly" means and what the "privileges" are.

At one end of the continuum, "significantly" means there is no separation in any invention, and no one can steal anything or there is nothing to steal of another's ideas.

This position is as ridiculous as the end of the continuum about which you remonstrate: that Bikram guy. That's because there are uses of another's ideas that ought to be recognized and compensated - if only because it takes resources to make the ideas in the first place; there are original ideas, and they really do represent advances in the state of the art.

But the problem is always what is "significant" and what the "privileges" are. That's the issue.

Nathan said...

I don't agree with the whole framework of patents. It's not something I intend to offer a long defense of right now, but I will just say that what I wrote above I stand behind. Compensation and recognition can be given in other ways. Perhaps I will write about some of them another time.

Paul said...

Well done India, I a western Buddhist & yoga practitioner of over 30years & the thought of anyone putting a patent on such things is horrendous , so I hope India keeps up the good work & shows the rest of the world that we don't have to bow down to greedy corporate types & nasty corporations who engage in biopiracy and so forth, so once again, WELL DONE INDIA !

John Smith said...

Great yoga poses i ever seen :D and great health tip :D

Unknown said...

I wonder how to get to know about the 1300 poses??