December 18, 2013

That Infamous YogaGlo Cease & Desist Letter: Real or Not Real?

Relephant reads:

Yoga Alliance CEO Richard Karpel Answers Hard-Hitting Questions About YogaGlo Patent Controversy.

I just got off the phone with Todd Wolfenberg from Yoga International.

I wanted to put to rest, once and for all, the rumors that have been churning in the gossip mill: that no cease and desist letters have actually been sent from YogaGlo to anyone, namely to Yoga International. 

“We did receive a letter,” Wolfenberg said. “It’s dated August 26, 2013.”

He then told me that he has already heard the rumor that this letter doesn’t exist, and that he and others at Yoga International got a good chuckle out of that. 

“The letter is sitting right in front of me. I don’t know if I’m allowed to share this. Frankly, I don’t really want to pay our attorneys any more to find out.”

Wolfenberg did, however, offer to send the letter to me for private viewing, saying that I could quote from it. I accepted this gracious offer—and now the letter is sitting in front of me.

In the note included with the now-infamous cover letter, Wolfenberg wrote that he’s “sorry to disappoint the conspiracy theorists out there, but attached is the legal notice that YogaGlo sent us on August 26, 2013.”

I’d like to also assert that the entire purpose for this article, as well as its predecessor, is to confront head-on the questions brewing and simmering within our yoga community from all sides. In short, while I have made it known that I’m a member of Yoga Alliance, I, more importantly, seek truth and honest answers from those directly involved rather than circulate hearsay.

So here goes.

The letter—indeed dated August 26, 2013—begins with “Dear Sir or Madam: As you know, YogaGlo, Inc. (“YogaGlo”) provides fitness classes, information, and services through its website <yogaglo.com>. YogaGlo maintains intellectual property rights in the method and manner in which delivers these services. To protect these rights, YogaGlo owns and maintains several trademark and copyright registrations, including U.S. and foreign patent applications.”

Suffice it to say that I read the two-page letter—which is only the cover letter—and already my eyes glazed over from all of the legal jargon. (To my yoga teaching friend going to law school: you might have a whole new direction available to you.)

Following the attainment of this letter, a “cordial” phone conversation with YogaGlo occurred the following week.

“YogaGlo made it extraordinarily clear from the beginning that their intention was to have us remove the videos from our site and when we refused, they said they couldn’t force us to—yet.” Wolfenberg said.

Yoga International was also informed that they weren’t the sole recipient of such a letter.

“When we spoke to them—and they were very nice, it was a cordial conversation—they told us that letters had been sent to a number of organizations.” Wolfenberg then stated that Yoga International waited to let this situation come to the attention of the yoga community on its own, with so many others involved.

“We waited a number of weeks,” he said, “thinking it would unfold naturally and it didn’t.”

He said that the high cost of defending yourself—hundreds of thousands of dollars—is intimidating and that most attorneys will not advise you to pursue such action.

Yet the “false” letter isn’t the only rumor he’s heard. He said he’s also heard suggested that Yoga International hired a PR firm to fabricate and spread this entire story. (They don’t even have a PR firm, just for the record, and he wanted to clear this up as well, as long as he had someone willing to listen.)

“Just to address the other conspiracy claims out there: we do not have—nor have we ever had—a PR firm, paid or unpaid, who has done any work for us regarding the patent issue,” Wolfenberg said.

Of course, they “kicked the idea around” when they realized that they were going to be the only letter recipients to make noise, but they shot it down.

Wolfenberg said the whole thing still baffles him.

“We don’t even consider YogaGlo a competitor at all. I’m surprised that they’ve taken this as far as they have. They have top teachers on their site and their product is excellent—they don’t need a patent to be successful.”

Ultimately, Wolfenberg says that this yoga community issue is bringing to light the larger patent law problems. Additionally, he said that it’s a “gross generalization” that the yoga community and business can’t go hand in hand.

“One of the interesting things with this whole thing is that many are insinuating that yoga people are anti-business or that they don’t understand business; this situation has inflamed this.” He doesn’t see either situation as the case, though, and, further, he definitely thinks that some yoga patents are merited.

“A patent is legitimate if someone creates a new prop or something like that, but when a camera angle is involved—there’s something bigger at play.”

And now that I’ve seen this letter with my own two eyes, I can voice my hope that we can move on from, at least this particular concern.

Instead, our community should continue to address the potentially devastating effects of such a patent’s approval and, moreover, the generally inappropriate patent laws and how they can be better handled

Also, I’d like to extend my gratitude to Todd Wolfenberg for helping me walk my own personal talk—the reason that I blog—to promote open communication and honest dialogue in all areas of life.

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” ~ Dalai Lama


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Editor: Bryonie Wise 

Photos: elephant archives


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