Last week when we wrote about sign spinners sending off their special spinning techniques to the patent office, one of our readers reminded us that Bikram yoga had been copyrighted -- a topic we had discussed a few years ago. However, with nearly perfect timing, the NY Times has an article noting not just that Bikram yoga has been covered by copyright, but that there are currently 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 patents on yoga accessories and 2,315 yoga trademarks. The author then goes on to discuss how folks in India are getting increasingly upset about this, since almost all of those things are based on Indian traditions from long ago that clearly shouldn't be protected by new intellectual property laws. In fact, the author writes about how the concept of intellectual property is almost antithetical to yoga. He then goes on to note that the same is actually true for many of today's pharmaceutical patents -- that are really based on well-known benefits of various herbal remedies that have been around for as long as anyone can remember. The author points out that 2000 patents are issued each year on reformulations of traditional Indian remedies. It's an interesting comparison of the ridiculousness of locking up yoga behind intellectual property laws. Too many people assume that pharmaceutical patents actually help bring more good into the world, when there's increasing evidence that they're actually being used to lock up important remedies and make them more expensive, actually decreasing the ability to make people healthy. While many people can see the immediate ridiculousness of locking up yoga moves, it's nice to see someone at the NY Times recognizing the same may be true about pharmaceuticals as well.
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