If talk of patenting yoga poses makes you groan, brace yourself—your pants are next. High-end yoga clothier and swag maker, Lululemon is attempting to enforce a patent on the waistband of their Astro Pant. As trivial as it may seem, the case could have a big impact for future design patents. It’s also a good reminder that yoga merchandise is still just stuff.
Some legal experts are already claiming that perhaps Lululemon shouldn’t have been granted a patent in the first place, and that perhaps it is actually the fact the Calvin Klein pants are $78 cheaper that really chaps the lemon. If my two year old, $20 Danskin pants with a nearly identical waist are any indication, overlapping panels of fabric are hardly revolutionary; but, Lululemon thinks the offending pants came too close to reproducing their patented design.
It has historically been difficult to protect design elements against infringement, and some believe this is a good thing as idea exchanges spur creativity and innovation. If the case is successful, these traits, which have long been a hallmark of the fashion industry, could be hampered.
Lululemon is no stranger to capitalistic controversy. The company caused a stir last year with merchandise celebrating Ayn Rand’s exemplar of self-interest, John Galt. Although many shoppers didn’t get the reference, others were offended that the company could promote such an un-yogic philosophy. If all press is good press, the merchandise was a perfect example of the theory of rational egoism Rand supported.
In the end, the details of this case have less to do with yoga than they do with profit; yet, we can still extrapolate some juicy yogic lessons. Patanjali lays out important moral and ethical guidelines in the Yamas and Niyamas of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. We could argue that Lululemon should practice Aparigraha (non-hoarding), and stop clinging to the details of their not exceptionally unique designs; or, that Calvin Klein should practice Asteya (non-stealing) and work harder to come up with their own designs. While these both may or may not be valid, as consumers who are also yogis we have so many more options, even beyond voting with our dollars.
We can start by asking what is really important about our practice – is it fancy pants, a pricy mat, or is it something deeper? If we attempt to practice Samtosha (contentment), we look inward, not at what our neighbor is wearing or sitting on. This can be hard to remember in the hustle of everyday life with advertisements coming at us from every direction. Luckily, we have yoga and it doesn’t take any special equipment to take a deep breath and reconnect with Samtosha.
What do you think about Lululemon’s lawsuit?