Coverage of intellectual property comes in two flavors. The first is articles about content creators being robbed by the latest technology (home audio tape, VCRs, DVD players, Napster, bitorrent, etc). The second is about intellectually appalling abuses of the U.S. copyright and patent system - which brings us to Raymond Thibodeaux's NPR Marketplace report on attempts to patent yoga positions.
In a leafy Delhi suburb, yoga teacher Mani Chaitanya leads a class in Sivananda Yoga. His students crouch down like sprinters at the start of a race, then fold themselves in an upside-down V. Chaitanya says it's hard to imagine that some yoga positions, better known here as asanas, could be off limits to him and his students because of patent infringements. Or, more likely, they'd have to pay extra to do the patented moves.
Basically, this is like giving Andy Bathgate a patent on the slap shot and paying his heirs a percentage of Brett Hull's salary for using it (I'm visiting Canada later this week, it's in my head). Or, for my American readers, like giving Kevin Youkilis a patent on his batting stance for any reason other than pity.
The best part of this story is Thibodeaux reporting on the prior art - which in the case of Indian yoga poses tends to be in ancient Sanscrit - not searchable databases.
Gupta says the problem is that knowledge is written in Sanskrit, an ancient and little-known Indian language. His team has spent two years combing through Sanskrit scriptures to identify at least 900 asanas and catalog them in English and other major languages.