From Yoga Patents To Pharmaceutical Patents

from the locking-up-history dept

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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Comments on “From Yoga Patents To Pharmaceutical Patents”

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StillNoCureForCancer says:

US Patent office violating TRIPS

It works both ways, India is entitled to expect the US to abide by TRIPS too. That means the patents are issued “….provided that they are new, involve an inventive step”.

If the USA Patent office continues to issue patents on things without determining whether they are new or involve an inventive step USA is in violation of TRIPS.

India could argue it’s has a right to ignore US drug patents as retaliation. That would probably be a good thing given that drugs are increasingly discovered outside of the USA now.

TheDock22 says:

Silly India...

Unless those traditional Indian remedies were patented thousands of years ago, I think Americans will jump on that bandwagon for a little cash.

Also, patents cover improving on an existing product to the point that it provides “significant” functionality changes to the original product. Though, these are very few and far between.

RandomThoughts (user link) says:

Stillnocureforcancer, India just began recognizing patents. Until recently, they ignored them, which is why they never did drug discovery.

Also, could you tell me of drugs that are increasingly being discovered outside of the USA? Which ones are those? Fewer and fewer drugs are being discovered outside of the US, much to the EU’s disappointment.

Sanguine Dream says:

Re: Re:

Precisely. Why release your newly discovered drug in a country that has no patent protection when you can take it to the US, get a pantent or two, and then preceed to get so rich that you could hire Micheal Jackson to be you butler?

For the most part drugs are cheap to research and produce yet they cost outrageous prices. Where is all that money going or is the same as the gas/oil inudstry?

interval says:

Re: Re: Re:

@Sanguine Dream: “For the most part drugs are cheap to research and produce…” Where’d you dream that up? Drug research is one of the most expensive endevours an organized business can take up. The production is one thing, but pharmacuetical R&D is quite another, and very expensive. I’m not exactly a Pharmacomm (Anyone remember “Johnny Mneumonic”?) booster but fakts is fakts.

StillNoCureForCancer says:

Then why is the US copying their remedies?

“India just began recognizing patents. Until recently, they ignored them, which is why they never did drug discovery.”

From the story:

“he author points out that 2000 patents are issued each year on reformulations of traditional Indian remedies. “

India may not be exporting their medicine to America, but that’s the artificial barriers you’ve introduced, even medicine from Canada can’t be directly imported!

RandomThoughts (user link) says:

The reimportation of drugs has noting to do with patents. The FDA doesn’t allow reimportation, and the FDA has no interest in patents. They don’t get involved in that fight, outside of a drug safety issue.

Most drugs (outside of biotech drugs) are reformulations of natural substances. Thats the way the industry works, looking at natural substances and seeing how refining them can affect the body.

Drug discovery is actually pretty cheap, producing the drug is usually pretty cheap, the tough part is getting the drugs through clinical trials.

Jason Bryant says:

Re: Re:

Hey I don’t know if it is you or not but your profile came in my e mail and it was from True the dating service online. I don’t use it or anything but I have looked there before that is why I receive e mails from them. I noticed that you stated that you use photo bucket so I tried to do a search with xheavenlyx but came up with nothing. I did find this site and maybe just maybe this is you from True. If it is do please contact me email or

Indian says:


When are these so called corporate giants going to learn. A knowledge called Yog, popularly now known as Yoga, invented by Indian Rishi-Muni (Hermits) over 5000 years ago, was given to the world for its benefits for FREE. And now it is being patented. This is the most absurd and ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

What is next, patent of “Surya Namaskar”, no may be “Breathing”, na na may be “Drinking of water”.

Yog is not just an exercise or aerobics, it is a way of life. It is the just one small part of the whole science but the corporations and other individuals are selling just the minute part of the whole science for monetary benefits. The very idea that I would have to pay someone for license to sit in “Shirsh Aasan” or what is known as Lotus position of sitting, is crazy. How can something which was invented thousands of years ago, and is mentioned in Hindu scriptures be Intellectual property of someone?

Muhil says:


Its a crazy world. What my Grandfather taught me, what my guru had imparted to me and what I know is part of all the religious scriptures and what is old by thousands of years was invented by some human of this generation. Unbelievable.

Next thing expected would be a patent for religions and decades of tradition. What is part and parcel of some religion, and what was transmitted through ages in a traditional Guru – Shisya (Teacher – Disciple) relationship cannot be patented and sold out to people in packages.

There are a thousand ways to make money in this world. Why someone has to steal somebody else’s legacy and tradition. And Why it has to continue through generations that invaders still steal from from my country.

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