Its hard to imagine that yoga, the 5,000-year-old discipline of exercise, diet and meditation, would have anything in common with the modern software industry.
But a group of loosely affiliated yoga instructors based in California have embraced the philosophy of the open-source software movement in fighting a campaign by a richly successful yoga master to use copyright law to bar competitors from practicing any part of his exercise routines without authorization.
India-born Bikram Choudhury has gained rock-star status in the clannish world of yoga, which has long been taught by independent local practitioners who train relatively small groups of dedicated yoga aficionados in towns and cities across the country.
But the yoga community has also grown steadily in the United States, where as many as 16.5 million fitness-conscious people practice the discipline, according to Yoga Journal.
Based in the always trend-conscious Los Angeles area, Choudhury has accumulated wealth and a large following with his style of yoga training, in which he leads practitioners in 26 yoga positions and breathing exercises in rooms heated to sweltering temperatures.
Recognizing the value of this lucrative practice, Choudhury did what many smart businesspeople and software-industry entrepreneurs have done: He protected his intellectual-property rights by declaring on his Web site in February, 2003, that his yoga routine, called “Bikrams Basic Yoga System” or simply “Bikram Yoga” was copyrighted and trademarked.