September 24, 2013

Cease & Desist Yoga Patents. ~ Adrien Edwards

relephant: YogaGlow Aims to Patent their Style of Filming a Yoga Class?

  A love letter to YogaGlo.

Business is simple: you need/want something, I provide it, you pay me for providing it, done!

Unfortunately it’s becoming a lot less-simple than that.

As a business owner and someone who helps yogis build their brands for a living, I cannot tell you how much I wish I could do business while completely ignoring the legal system, and not having to worry about trademarks, patents or any other ambiguous legal concept.

The truth of the matter is that business is much harder to conduct for everyone today than it once was. And while no one is shedding a tear for the large businesses with half a billion in savings, I hate what it’s doing to the small guys for whom a $2,000 legal retainer is a HUGE deal.

On Sept 23, Yogainternational.com posted on their site that had received a cease and desist letter by “well known online yoga website.” The letter stated that Yoga International was in violation of a patent protecting the use of a online streaming of yoga classes in which the teacher is in the front of the class (novel concept certainly worthy of receiving a patent) and the students on each side of a center aisle.

To any sane person who has ever attended college or any other class structure, it would be apparent that a patent like this is so broad, so ludicrous, that no one would ever take a seriously; but, despite the fact that this “well known yoga website” hasn’t in fact been issued this patent, the US patent office accepts and approves ridiculous patents like this everyday.

It’s become increasingly difficult to communicate—much less create anything of value—without, at some point, encountering the long arm of the law.

That said, I would never leave you with a problem without suggesting a few solutions and here they are:

1. When coming up with you product or business name do the following three searches (please note that you may need to do more or less research depending on your business):

A patent or trademark search

Search for the availability of the url

A simple Google search

2. Learn the basics. Call an attorney who is willing to answer a few questions. Tell them you’re considering using their services, but you need to know whether you’re speaking to the right person. This will give you a great deal of insight on how the patent and trademark system works.

3. If you get a cease and desist letter don’t stop doing what you’re doing right away. While it can be scary to get a legal document in the mail “commanding” you to stop doing what you’re doing, it isn’t actually necessary to do anything about it right away. In some cases, businesses send out these letters to intimidate but don’t actually have the legal backing to pursue them.

Do your research, search for the patent or trademark they claim to have and start the conversation with them. If you don’t have several thousand dollars to spend on an attorney, this is your best bet.

4. Make sure you register your business as an LLC. It’s necessary to limit the amount of damage legal repercussions could have on you as the individual. If someone goes after your business, you want to make sure they will never be able to touch your personal assets.

If you can hire an attorney, go for it! It’s definitely the easiest and safest route to go, but I know it’s not always a possibility when you’re bootstrapping. So what you don’t have in money to pay a lawyer, you have to replace with time and research.

Don’t let businesses bully you—it’s sad when human ambition trumps the nature of an industry built on spirituality and combined human growth. I would love to send a cease and desist to patents on yoga!

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 Ed: Sara Crolick

{photo: via yogainternational.com}

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