First, my full disclosure: I hadn’t heard of YogaGlo before last week’s media frenzy. After the ongoing Bikram drama, it makes me weary to even think about yet another yoga related lawsuit. The irony of these cases is not lost on most yoga devotees who honor the ancient ethical principles of the practice. Luckily in this case, YogaGlo has assured their consumers that they are not suing anyone – they’re merely attempting to enforce an as-of-yet-non-existent patent to protect an idea of questionable provenance. So, it’s refreshing that there isn’t an actual idea being exploited in this case – let’s hope that, perhaps, it is a sign that the yoga™ lawsuit is finally on its last grasping few breaths.
Quick catch-up for those of you who are still blissfully unaware of the newest battle for king of the hill: YogaGlo (YG) streams videos of yoga classes; they have filed a patent on their revolutionary cinematic style. (Their novel idea is to set the classroom up with the teacher in the front of the class and an aisle down the middle of the room.) Yoga International (YI) recently began streaming videos of yoga classes, and in some of these, they used this same set up (gasp). YI has received a cease and desist letter from YG based on infringement of their pending patent. In a move that has been almost as surprising, Yoga Alliance (YA) released a statement supporting YI and even set up an online petition to try to convince YG to withdraw their patent application. The petition states that since “video taping a yoga teacher in a live classroom setting is an obvious idea, not an invention”, the patent serves no purpose other than suppress their competition. So far, YG is choosing to stand behind their perception that they have invented the wheel (pun intended).
Since I haven’t seen a YG video, I won’t attempt to speak to the quality of their instruction, but based on the utter absurdity of the patent application, it is certainly appropriate to question their understanding of the purpose and process of claiming a patent, as well as their familiarity with the basic philosophy and principles of yoga. Not only is their justification of the application weak, they are attempting to claim creative rights on a movement that has already passed them by. Seriously, have they never heard of YouTube? In a millisecond anyone in the world with a computer and an Internet connection can type in “yoga” and access over 8.1 million yoga videos.
A main point that businesses are told to consider when deciding if they should trademark something is – do you have the ability and resources to enforce these rights if granted? I’m not saying they don’t, but I wouldn’t want to be the person assigned to watching years worth of homemade yoga videos and attempting to prosecute Aunt Shirley in Idaho who has filmed herself teaching yoga to her cats with the same classroom set-up.
Effectively protecting your creative ideas while also making a profit is a daunting task for any business. Attempting to gain market share by claiming basic concepts as your own won’t get you far these days. Unfortunately, rather than cornering a creative niche, YogaGlo has come off as a bully having a hard time sharing. YogaVibes, another company that also streams yoga videos, put it very eloquently when they pointed out that there “is plenty of room online to reflect the richness and depth of our community – no one site can fit everyone’s needs.”
The one thing that YG does appear to have a good understanding of is marketing. In the last week they have succeeded in smearing their name all over yoga blogosphere. Whether or not all press is good press for them remains to be seen, but I imagine they could continue to do just fine as the watered down, mass appeal, yoga-lite™ channel that it seems they are aiming to be. Bless their hearts.
What do you think about YogaGlo’s recent actions?