Yogis Behaving Badly: Patenting a view of a Yoga Class? ~ Mia Park

Via Mia Parkon Sep 25, 2013

Photo courtesy Virginia Zuluaga

Relephant links: YogaGlo aims to patent their style of filming a Yoga Class?

A Love Letter to YogaGlo.

Cease & Desist Yoga Patents.

YogaGlo.com is a popular website that offers online, filmed yoga classes to subscribers. They do a great job, and deserve kudos for offering a great solution for many folks who want to practice yoga from home or the road.

These classes are taped in their Santa Monica, California yoga studio with the instructor at the head of the room, a camera in the back of the room, students standing between the instructor and the camera, and a clear aisle from the camera to the instructor.

On June 28, 2013, YogaGlo founder, Derik Mills, applied for a patent claiming that he invented this format of filming yoga videos.

YogaInternational.com is a newer website that also offers filmed yoga classes with the similar visual of a teacher in the front of the room, students in front of the teacher, a camera behind the students, and an aisle from the camera to the teacher.
On September 23, 2013, YogaInternational.com announced that they received a cease and desist letter pertaining to these online yoga classes from “a well known online yoga website.” Readers researched and discovered that it was YogaGlo, Inc who applied for the patent and sent the cease and desist letter.

YogaGlo also allegedly sent cease and desist letters to other websites hosting yoga instruction videos. According to a post on YogaInternational.com, “This same company insisted that a teacher from a small yoga studio in Canada…remove it from the charity site because her video was in violation of the patent they were pursuing…They threatened to pursue legal action against her if the class wasn’t pulled of the site.”

Besides YogaInternational.com, websites that host online yoga classes that used a similar filming technique include Kripalu.org and YogaVibes.com.

YogaInternational.com states in their post,

“The concept of controlling or owning a part of that process is foreign to us. While we certainly dislike the idea of (and would ideally like to avoid) ‘owning’ a particular way of presenting yoga, this experience has left us wondering if we should look for means to legally protect our style of online teaching, lest another organization inform us that we can no longer present digital content in our current manner, either. What we own, as teachers and students of yoga, is our life. We own the unique perspective that a lifetime of experiences brings. The value a teacher brings to her students is not from where they stand in the room, or the colors of the mats they provide, it is from the life they spent studying…”

They go on to say that,

“the obvious way to film a yoga class is head-on during a live class, which would be in direct violation of this patent, effectively prohibiting many teachers from sharing their teachings online at all. That doesn’t feel right to us. In fact, it is the antithesis of our approach, as we’d like to see more teachers able to share their wisdom with others, not less.”

Later on September 23, 2013, YogaGlo posted a blog entry in response to Yoga International’s article, stating that,

“We are simply protecting the proprietary filming perspective which makes YogaGlo’s online classes distinct. In order to continue to provide our community with this distinctive online yoga class experience at an affordable price, YogaGlo is required to protect its intellectual property, just like any other online business. We are hopeful that once our patent registers, we will be able to resolve these matters in a way that protects our intellectual property rights and allows all online yoga services to thrive fairly.”

Derik Mills claims that he invented this particular way of filming a yoga class, calling it a “system and method” of experiencing a yoga session without being physically present. The patent offers detailed instruction on how “to make and use the invention and set forth the best modes contemplated by the inventor of carrying out his invention.” These details include 5” wide white oak wood planks for flooring and the camera being 35” from the ground.

There are many layers of this situation to consider, regardless of the content of the videos. Can a camera angle or the way a film set is designed be patented? Is intellectual property defined by the content of the video or by how the video is filmed? What is the reasoning behind claiming the invention of how to film something when this technique was already in use by others? What is the financial justification behind stating that securing this patent facilitates YogaGlo providing their product at an affordable price?

The fact that this challenging business move occurred in the yoga world disturbs many people.
Yoga is intended to cultivate peace and mindfulness, which is place where balanced business decisions can be made. Hundreds of online opinions agree that this patent application and the cease and desist letters are not balanced decisions and are non-yogic.

This issue is divisive and people are weighing in passionately. There are hundreds of comments across Facebook, Twitter, YogaInternational.com, YogaGlo.com, elephant and other websites. A popular YogaGlo instructor reached out to me to share her opinion that Derik made a “standard business decision” by filing the patent and that people are overly emotionally reacting to this because they are yogis.

She said,

“This wouldn’t happen in the fitness world. Yogis are emotional. He didn’t start this business to make money. The guy’s into yoga. I trust Derik because he’s gotten to where he is through measured business (decisions).”

Most comments online side with the idea that the patent is not justified. One post reads,

“If my memory serves, my Kripalu videos from the late 80s or early 90s, long before YogaGlo existed, were shot in a similar style, as was Yoga Works’ K. Patabbhi Jois video. Wouldn’t this mean that those producers have more of a claim to trademarking this approach to making a yoga video?”

Another reads, “YogaGlo, you have the greatest teachers in the land…And you think you have to patent your silly layout? Because if you think we are taking classes because of your layout, you’ve got another thing coming. We are there for the fabulous teachers.” People are posting that they’re cancelling their YogaGlo subscriptions and are disappointed in this decision.

When asked for further comments for this article, YogaGlo’s public relation representative sent the response on the YogaGlo.com blog.

A representative of Yoga International declined further comment.

Derik Mills states that YogaGlo “serves as a vehicle for social change” and that “YogaGlo offers an important solution and a much-needed sense of community that is accessible to all.”

If social change entails patenting how to film yoga classes and community is defined by sending cease and desist legal notifications, then his vision has been fulfilled.

 

 

Awesome photo courtesy Virginia Zuluaga.

 

Like elephant journal on Facebook.

Ed: Bryonie Wise

 

 

About Mia Park

Mia Park’s dharma is to create and hold space for truth and transformation. Initiated in the Sri Vidya lineage, Mia is a certified ParaYoga and Rest and Renew teacher, 500E-RYT, and an actress, drummer, producer, and writer. She manifests it all thanks to a dedicated meditation practice and with the grace and guidance from her teachers. Mia has filmed instructional yoga videos for YogaInternational.com that are not in violation of the pending patent from YogaGlo.com. Her website is MiaPark.com.
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48 Responses to “Yogis Behaving Badly: Patenting a view of a Yoga Class? ~ Mia Park”

  1. Bhikkhu says:

    One word: Bikram.

  2. Barbara Ginsberg says:

    Even if it was a fitness video it would still be wrong. Shooting any educational video in such a logical way, head on with backs of students is pretty standard because it's the best angle for learning. So how could they patent it? And they weren't the ones who came up with it in the yoga industry. Makes me think of late night shows – which I don't watch but came to mind – should Letterman patent how they shoot with Letterman behind a desk on one side and guest chairs on the other? Imagine tv viewers reactions. They would react the same way as we are. Didn't the Tonight Show start that kind of show? Or was it an earlier show? And how lame a patent! It's a shame that YogaGlo doesn't focus on what really is important. And it's not that yoga practitioners are acting emotionally. This legal crap is simply ridiculous. The patent is only pending and they are telling competitors to cease and desist. An overly aggressive legal move with a lame patent that hasn't even been approved. Shame on YogaGlo.

  3. Michael Denvir says:

    Good article, Mia. I would just like to respond to the unnamed instructor's comments. It may be true that yogis are emotional and do not reast with perfect rationality to this action by Mills, but her reaction is equally irrational. Without understanding the fundamentals of patent law, she just assumes Mills is making the correct decision because she "trusts" him. In point of fact, Mills has almost no chance of getting a utility patent on such an obvious and non-novel way of presenting a yoga class. The effect of this patent would be to forbid others taping and broadcasting yoga classes over the internet when they happen to be shot form the middle of the class, facing the teacher, with a clear line of sight to the teacher. Other studios would have to ask for a license from Yogaglo to do this (one of the most obviosu ways of filming a yoga class). The whole thing so misguided on so many levels, it boggle the mind. But that is how capitalism and ego can warp things that start out with good intentions — this seems to happen all too often in the yoga world.

  4. Chanti says:

    Great Post mia!!!
    Make sure you sign the petition against this! http://www.thepetitionsite.com/258/457/371/urge-y

  5. Tom M says:

    Wow! We call ourselves yogi's on a spiritual path. When actions like these truly demonstrate how far off we are. Unionizing yoga will be next on the agenda

  6. Glen Enander says:

    I've just started yoga, but I taught religious studies in college for 10 years, and I can tell you that Yogaglo's actions have nothing to do with authentic yoga philosophy. More than this, if this kind of patent is allowed, "small-time" yoga, like small-town diners, will disappear and in its place McYoga franchises will replace them.

    As I understand it, there's already an online petition urging Yogaglo to withdraw their petition. Perhaps more effective, however, you can comment upon the petition at http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20120162419#Comme

  7. Sallie says:

    Thank you, Mia, for the great article. As for the YogaGlo teacher and her idea that "this wouldn’t happen in the fitness world. Yogis are emotional.” It's nonsensical. Many/most of the Yogis I know strive to follow yogic principles and are appalled because this is a company that should be following those principles as well. And these fellow yoga friends are concerned enough to voice their opinions and act. Emotion has nothing to do with this. I'm not sure I agree that this wouldn't happen in the fitness world, but I think we can all agree that "fitness" has an entirely different set of principles than "yoga." For starters, yoga isn't a sport. And though Derick may have not started "the business to make money", I think it's pretty obvious that's what he's thinking about now. My "emotional" yoga self has done the rational thing and cancelled my subscription.

  8. Matt says:

    Has anyone thought about pursuing the patent invalidation process with the US Patent and Trademark Office? This is a legal means established in the law specifically for situations like this. To resort to name calling and expressing outrage is a real waste of time and energy. A patent application is not a patent and it has become harder than ever to get a patent. It is still early in the patent examination stage. Go to the site USPTO.gov and search for “invalidating a patent”. You will get all the information needed to pursue this in a meaningful way. It’s so presumptuous for Derick to publicly state, “When our patent is registered…” If you want to put a stop to this, use the means afforded by the law.

    • mia.park says:

      that's a great suggestion, matt. thanks!

    • mike says:

      MAtt I agree with your points about the patents office. Name calling is a waste of time but what might seem completely reasonable & fair to an attorney seems to be ethically irreprehensible to others outside that code of living.
      I trademarked my Yoga Studio name not so I can prevent people using it but to stop people from allowing ME to use it. I couldn't care less if someone used my name because I'M the asset, not my name.

      It all goes down to intention. Sadly the actions Yogaglo took against the Himilayan Institute says it all.

      It not hard to find a lawyer (especially in CA) who will convince their client that what they are doing is 'just & ok' & 'protecting your assets' & even warning Yogaglo that inevitably they might lose 10-15% of your subscriptions but gain an additional 30% of the 'mass market' of whom don't care about the ethics of their decision to patent something they didn't actually invent!

      Yogaglo has unwittingly signed up for years of litigation which is exactly what the lawyers want. I've seen this happen many many times & its only going to hurt them in the end I'm afraid.

      It's not too late for Yogaglo to retract however sadly I think the damage is done. bummer because it was such a great site :(

      I wish all the teachers good luck

  9. Matt says:

    The attitude of resignation I have seen is distressing. Did anyone notice that this is only a patent “application” and not a registered patent? At this stage of the game you can stop it. If you want to create change google “invalidating a patent” and follow the steps. The patent examiner would be happy to hear from you. These days the patent and trademark office is looking for any reason available to NOT issue a patent. It’s true.

    • Sallie says:

      Matt – I find little resignation. Many of us are canceling subscriptions and taking our business elsewhere and getting the word out so others can make an informed choice as to whether to do the same. We are also signing petitions and commenting in the application’s public comment section provided by the patent office. There are some who, even if the patent application doesn’t go through, will never again become subscribers of YogaGlo. As yogis, many of us trust our yoga companies to set and adhere to higher principles than most companies. Part of what you are seeing is the veil being lifted and the realization that we are funding a company who is not adhering to those higher principles.

      • Matt says:

        Hi Sallie,

        I think it's great that you are actively participating in the system of capitalism that enables YogaGlo to file for a patent. You are voting with your dollars and they are striving to control the quality of their product and protect what they perceive as their idea. It's great! Capitalism is great. Everyone is winning in this situation. Imagine a world where you had no choice. A world where they didn't have the freedom or ability to even try to get a patent. You wouldn't want to live in that world, unless you were the dictator of it. Then maybe you could say "off with their heads" when someone wasn't being yogic enough for you.

        • Sallie says:

          Hi Matt – I am in full agreement except for your "everyone is winning." The non-profit Yoga International as well as the non-profit in Canada that will have to take down it's donation-for-charity yoga video are not. It's those non-profits and those with smaller budgets that are unable to afford legal fees that is one of my concerns. I am thankful to be living in the United States and that I have the means to "vote" with my dollars. Not everyone has that opportunity in the world, much less in the United States. There are many who can't afford YogaGlo, can't afford to go to a studio, and are using non-profit sites. They will lose a valuable resource if some of these sites are shut down because the companies running them don't have the money to stand up to YogaGlo or others. At any rate, thank you for posting earlier that we may be able to stop the application even if YogaGlo decides to continue. It's good to know there are even more tools at our disposal.

          • mia.park says:

            wow – thanks sallie & matt for such a great discussion. sallie, i appreciate what you wrote about the great loss we would collectively share if resources like yoga international were forced to close due to the greed of larger companies like yogaglo. i do have faith that authentic yoga will survive, no matter what. it's surely more ancient than the internet and will definitely out live yogaglo.

  10. Sarah says:

    I want to know who that yoga instructor is that bad mouthed the yoga community. She has no respect for the yogis she is teaching and making money off of. This patent app is exposing a lot more then just naked greed.

    • hya says:

      I agree. It just makes it worse if not only management, but also some YogaGlo teachers are behind this sad idea.
      I also would like to know who it is to avoid her other media.

      • mia.park says:

        hi, sarah & hya. i did promise to not use the teacher's name. she is as passionate about this issue as the rest of us and of course she's entitled to her strong opinion. i'm not sure of the purpose of her call. i believe that she was trying to get my angle on the issue to feel out what kind of article i was writing and yes, she did argue in favor of derik and yogaglo. again, this is a heated issue. it's an important dialogue to have and i'm glad we're having it. thanks for your comments!

    • mia.park says:

      hi, sarah & hya. i did promise to not use the teacher's name. she is as passionate about this issue as the rest of us and of course she's entitled to her strong opinion. i'm not sure of the purpose of her call. i believe that she was trying to get my angle on the issue to feel out what kind of article i was writing and yes, she did argue in favor of derik and yogaglo. again, this is a heated issue. it's an important dialogue to have and i'm glad we're having it. thanks for your comments!

      • Michael Denvir says:

        I just wish the teachers would take some time to understand the (lack of) law behind the cease and desist demand. Beside being "un-yogic," it is a ludicrous legal position. There is about a .000001% chance of this patent being granted. And if it were granted, it would be struck down later if they tried to take someone to court.

  11. Valerie says:

    YogaGlo teachers who support the idea will change their tune when they're prevented from teaching classes they present via YogaGlo in other venues. That would be the next logical step.

  12. Julie says:

    I've been wondering for the past few days if there is any other similar situation of patenting the look of something, as opposed to an actual invention… then I thought of Apple's GUI design patents. Is arranging square icons in a certain way on a rectangular screen new or novel? It's apparently patentable. Here's an interesting article on the subject: http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2013/03/guest-pos

    Switch out iPhone icons for yoga mats, and I can't help but see some comparisons.

    • mia.park says:

      hmmmm…interesting. thanks for the link, looking at it now.

    • Michael Denvir says:

      Just FYI, that is a design patent which is distinct from and different than the utility patent YogaGlo is applying for. Here is a page from the Patent Office summarizing the differences. http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/oeip/taf/

    • Michael Denvir says:

      Hi Julie, I can't see my previous comment becuase it is awaiting moderatoin, but I think I started with FYI. I'm just tired and at work, I didn't mean to sound like an ass :) It's a good question. Another difference in design vs utility patents is that the design protected must be non-functional, merely ornamental — it is a bit of a legalistic distinction, utility and design are often intertwined, but the distiction would appear to knock this application completely out of the design patent category.

  13. Matt says:

    I feel so thankful that we can even have this conversation. I'm thankful Yoga Glo can file for a patent if they feel their idea is unique enough. I'm thankful people can raise their voices in objection. I'm thankful people can take their business elsewhere. I wouldn't want to be a citizen of a nation where any of these positions were unlawful. It's nice to reflect upon and be appreciative of the freedoms we all enjoy, whether or not we agree upon how they are used.

  14. sophie says:

    This is depressing news. I find YogaGlo very user unfriendly as a website anyway. The setting of their online classes is cold and clinical visually. Nothing compared to the stunning landscapes My Yoga Online offers to his users as a background to many of their most popular classes. I’d rather do a one-to-one online class, with a teacher practicing by a lake in the mountains, than a sad LA studio in a ‘patented format’ with YogaGlo. Well done to the yogis who are unsubscribing. Voting with our feet is always the way to go in those situations. They really don’t seem to know their audience.

  15. Sallie says:

    Mia – I'm wondering why no one has really talked about the fact that the teachers are sticking with YogaGlo (or at this time, appear to be).

    Many YogaGlo teachers have responded to facebook users asking them their opinion as follows: "Yogaglo has been one of the best run, most generous, fun and supportive business I've ever worked for and they continue to be. This legal situation is admittedly unfortunate, but not every employee loves every decision that their employer makes. I've expressed my concern to Yogaglo over how this issue is affecting my students and am hoping that everything will be resolved soon. I continue to do what I do best: teach. . .and am honored to offer it on a platform that reaches many. I hope it will all work out in a way that serves everyone involved."

    I have gotten this response from Kathryn Budig and one of my closest friends received this response from Tiffany Cruikshank (these responses are still both in the comments section of their respective facebook pages). I have read in other peoples comments that other teachers are saying this as well. I see these teachers as independent of each other and with enough other business ventures to go on, that they would be able to say whatever is on their mind. That does not appear to be the case in this instance.

    So if none of them are coming out publicly and expressing nothing but that the company they work for is "generous" and "fun" (incidentally, I think many investment bankers at Lehman Bros could have said the same thing), what is that saying about them? Either that a) they agree with YogaGlo or 2) they don't agree with YogaGlo but are sticking around because it's a fun and generous place to be employed. I'm not judging them and certainly not trying to throw stones if that's how they feel. But for me, trying to put my money where my principles are, I can't justify supporting any YogaGlo teacher if option a or b is true. A sad day for me to come to this realization as many are some of my favorite teachers.

    I know some people get into teaching yoga because they just like the poses and like teaching those poses to others and they are wildly successful at it. I get that. I get that these types of teachers see yoga as strictly business and would have no problem supporting YogaGlo in this case. I know many yoga students feel them same way. But for those of us yoga students striving to honor and live all of the yogic principles, how can we justify taking yoga classes from those who see it as merely a business venture? I'm speaking for myself here (but hope I'm speaking for many), how can we support these teachers at the expense of not supporting other teachers who are teaching not for the money, but out of love and wanting to continue the yogic tradition? Shouldn't we, as students, ask more of our teachers, in fact, expect more from our teachers???

    I think there should be at least one article written that addresses this (hint, hint). I believe it to be a valid point in the debate. At what point is the employee just as culpable as the employer if they don't speak out or leave??? Is everyone scared to talk about the teachers in this because they are some of the biggest names in yoga right now? I think you can still question the teachers on their motives and what they stand for (in fact, as students, I think we should be questioning our teachers sometimes) in a way that is loving and non-judgemental. Thanks.

    • mia.park says:

      SALLIE! i think you just wrote an article in your most awesome comment. thanks for posting this – you have some great comments to share. seriously, say some more about this & submit it to elephant journal!

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