New York, Dec 2 (PTI) A multi-millionaire Indian yoga guru in the US is suing his former student for over a million dollars for copying his unique ”Bikram Yoga” style of exercises that involve workouts in a 105 degree-fahrenheit room.
Kolkata-born Bikram Choudhury is the founder of ”Bikram Yoga” and has copyrighted his unique hot yoga classes.
In the lawsuit filed in a California court for copyright infringement, Choudhury, 65 is seeking monetary damages in excess of a million dollars and asking a federal judge to block ”Yoga to the People”, founded by his old student Greg Gumucio, from offering similar hot yoga classes.
Choudhury has alleged in the lawsuit that Gumucio”s yoga studios offer a ”Traditional Hot Yoga” class that is identical to his ”Bikram Yoga”, which is a 26 posture sequence practiced in a 105 degree (40 degree Celsius) ”Torture Chamber”.
“The hot yoga class is taught in the same ambient enviornment as Bikram Yoga in order to give students the impression that the class offers the same experience and benefits a student would have at a Bikram Yoga studio,” the 25-page lawsuit says.
In the lawsuit, Choudhary alleges that Gumucio had entered into an agreement with him that prohibited him from using the Bikram Yoga brand name and trademark in any form and teaching his style of yoga to others.
It costs USD 10,000 per teacher to be certified as a Bikram instructor, according to the lawsuit.
While a Bikram Yoga class costs USD 25, Gumucio”s chain of yoga studios charges eight dollars for the class.
Choudhury”s lawyer Robert Gilchrest said he had an investigator take Gumucio”s classes, which were “virtually mirror images and the dialogue was consistently the same.”
Gumucio opened Yoga to the People in New York”s East Village in 2006. The chain currently has five studios in the city as well as in California and Seattle.
In the suit, Choudhury states that those aspiring to become ”Bikram teachers” must take his formal nine-week, USD 7,000 course and once certified, instructors must obtain his permission to open studios.
Choudhury said he had to close one of his studios in Manhattan because “the presence of our competitors,” namely Yoga to the People, “has made it impossible for us to continue”.
Gumucio has said he never agreed to abide by Choudhury�s rules and that was why he parted ways with him.
“I have never agreed with Bikram and his idea that he owned the yoga, or that he should sue anyone.”
Gumucio said his sequence of poses is not exactly the same as Choudhury”s.
This is not the first time Choudhury has resorted to legal action against imitators.
He is currently suing two other studios for copyright infringement and had reached a monetary settlement with a Los Angeles studio in 2003.