September 25, 2013

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

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.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise



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