SAN FRANCISCO — An Indian yoga guru who became a multi-millionaire popularizing "hot yoga" in America has reached a settlement with a coalition of yoga studios who challenged the copyright to his version of the discipline -- an art form that is thousands of years old.
Bikram Choudhury, who trademarked his name and copyrighted his techniques, had been sending "cease and desist" letters ordering studios to stop teaching the same form of yoga that his private school has used to train more than 2,000 yoga instructors who have opened more than 1,200 Bikram studios in the United States.
Some of the studios formed a cooperative and sued Choudhury, claiming yoga could not be copyrighted.
The settlement was confidential, but three people involved in the case, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Choudhury had agreed not to sue the 50 members of the San Francisco-based yoga cooperative for copyright violations. And cooperative members agreed not to advertise the trademarked name "Bikram" without authorization by Choudhury.
The settlement avoids a June 20 trial that might have settled the legal question of whether Choudhury's copyrighted package of 26 poses and two breathing exercises, performed in a certain sequence in 105-degree heat, could be legally protected in federal court.