Originally published July 18 2012
Company tries to claim intellectual property ownership over children's exercises like 'leap frog'
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Almost everyone has heard of a ridiculous court case involving companies or individuals making incredulous, specious claims, but this may be the first time someone has tried to claim ownership of a child activity.
Focused Fitness, LLC, has filed suit against Action Based Learning, LLC, for attempting to assert copyright ownership over children's exercise activities "such as crawling, the 'army crawl,' the 'log roll,' 'leap frog,' walking on a balance beam, going over and under hurdles, balancing on a rope that has been laid on the ground, and others," the complaint said.
"Defendants have admitted that Focused Fitness has not used Defendants' selection and arrangement of those exercises, but instead claim protection in the exercises themselves," said the complaint, which was filed recently in U.S. district court in Washington state.
According to the complaint, Washington-based Focused Fitness said that in the spring of 2011, ABL co-founders Jean Blaydes Madigan and Cynthia "Cindy" Hess approached the company with charges it was violating the Texas-based company's intellectual property rights for teaching similar concepts to school kids.
"Focused Fitness develops and sells written materials, videos, photographs, artwork, software, and services to school districts and educators as full-service educational curricula," the complaint said.
Teaching 'friendly, time efficient, fun' techniques under names everyone uses
"Defendants are using their copyright on works describing or illustrating public domain exercises, and are using invalid assertions of copyright, in order to attempt to obtain a broad monopoly on the teaching of children's exercises. The exercises themselves, which are completely comprised of knowledge in the public domain, are not copyrightable matter," it said.
On its face, the complaint seems only too frivolous. Taken in full context, to claim ownership - intellectually or otherwise - that exercises and activities children have performed practically since the beginning of time is a whole new level of absurd.
In the suit, Focused Fitness said the company was formed and began operating in 2002 "when a group of physical educators formed an alliance to provide physical education curricula that would teach fitness and health concepts to children."
"Focused Fitness's health programs are based on a combination of activity, exercise, health, fitness, fun, and personal achievement aimed at children's overall well-being," said the complaint, adding that FF markets its familiar exercise programs primarily to school districts around the country.
The company said one of its most popular products is the "Fab 5 Lit Fit," which it described as "an instructional curriculum designed by physical and health education specialists for teachers to provide a comprehensive program to teach children academic content, concepts of fitness and health, fitness development, motor skill development, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle information."
The complaint goes onto say that Madigan and Hess are former teachers who themselves came together to create and market what ABL describes as "kinesthetic teaching strategies that teach specific academic concepts in a teacher friendly, time efficient, fun way that has proven results for a positive learning experience."
Calling leap frog leap frog
And while ABL holds a copyright on its so-called "Lab Manual," which is "a written text, including photographs, featuring a compilation of children's exercise routines and educational content," the company doesn't hold a copyright on "any particular set or sequence of exercise movements," says the suit.
"Defendants' allegations amount to an attempt to own rights in the exercises themselves," it says.
In strengthening its case, the plaintiff quoted a passage from the U.S. Copyright Office, which was published in the Federal Registrar in June:
"[A] selection, coordination, or arrangement of exercise movements, such as a compilation of yoga poses, may be precluded from registration as a functional system or process in cases where the particular movements and the order in which they are to be performed are said to result in improvements in one's health or physical or mental condition. While such a functional system or process may be aesthetically appealing, it is nevertheless an uncopyrightable subject matter."
To us, that would seem obvious but, apparently, not to one company attempting to gain a competitive advantage over another.
Meanwhile, children are still free to play "leap frog," perform the "log roll" and the "army crawl" - and call them such.
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