No Copyright Protection for Hot Yoga Sequence

People engage in yoga training to achieve anything ranging from spiritual fulfillment to overall physical fitness.  Bikram Choudhury developed a sequence of twenty-six yoga poses and two breathing exercises (the Sequence), described in his book, Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class.  Choudhury’s Bikram Yoga studios offer instruction in performing the Sequence over a ninety minute session in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.  Choudhury actively markets the health and fitness benefits the Sequence provides.  Mark Drost and Zefea Samson completed the Bikram Yoga Teacher Training course and later, in 2009, opened Evolution Yoga.  Evolution Yoga teaches a 26 posture and 2 breathing exercise routine performed in 90 minutes in a 105 degree Fahrenheit room. 

Choudhury and Bikram’s Yoga College of India, L.P. sued Evolution Yoga for infringing Bikram’s copyright in the Sequence.  The district court granted Evolution’s motion for summary judgement on the copyright infringement issue, ruling that the Sequence is a collection of facts and ideas that is not entitled to copyright protection.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.

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Laminate Floor Competitors Go to the Mat Over Copyrighted Design

Mannington Mills manufactures and sells laminate wood flooring.  Laminate wood flooring consists of several layers.  The “décor paper” layer goes underneath the transparent overlay, which is the top layer.  Mannington designers created Mannington’s Glazed Maple design to replicate what they thought a floor might look like after twenty or thirty years of wear.  The Mannington team created the Glazed Maple design by starting with new wood, gauging and staining the boards, taking digital photos and retouching digital photos until they arrived at the 120 inch by 100 inch Glazed Maple design.  Mannington obtained a copyright registration for its Glazed Maple design in November 2010.

Home Legend, a Mannington competitor, started selling a laminate floor design that was virtually identical to Mannington’s Glazed Maple design.  When Mannington requested Home Legend to stop selling the design, Home Legend filed a declaratory judgment action against Mannington.  The district court granted Home Legend’s motion for summary judgment.  The district court ruled that Mannington’s Glazed Maple design was ineligible for copyright protection because 1) Mannington’s Glazed Maple design lacked originality; 2) the Glazed Maple design could not be separated from the functional element of the flooring; and 3) the Glazed Maple design was directed to an idea or process.  The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s ruling that Mannington’s copyright was invalid.

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