December 12, 2013

YogaGlo’s Patent, Yoga Alliance’s Anti-Patent Stance & the Compatibility of Yoga & Capitalism.

I’ve already put in my two cents on YogaGlo’s patent when I shared the petition that Yoga Alliance circulated months ago

However, recent developments in this patent process have sparked a whole new set of anti-YogaGlo articles.

Initially, I didn’t want to chime in at all. Then I didn’t want to chime in because I didn’t think that people would like what I had to say. Regardless, I’m going to offer up two additional cents that I’ve been carrying around with me on this heated topic.

First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page: yes, it’s true that YogaGlo’s patent has been accepted—after initially being rejected.

The following, dated December 10, is shared via Yoga Alliance, which is the largest nonprofit association (technically, now two organizations) representing the yoga community—the yoga community’s governing body, if you will.

“On Oct. 29, the examiner determined that he could not find any prior art that barred YogaGlo’s amended claim, so he issued a Notice of Allowance and approved the patent. YogaGlo paid the issue fee on Nov. 13.

So far it doesn’t sound very promising for those who oppose YogaGlo’s attempt to patent its obvious “invention.”

But not so fast.  “

Wait, why not so fast? 

Because this patent is likely going to be unenforceable.

The following is also an excerpt shared from Yoga Alliance’s website.

“”Prior Art” Makes Patent Unenforceable:

Under U.S. patent laws, applicants must apply for a patent within one year after they initially use their invention in the normal course of business. We have learned that video material on YogaGlo’s own website predates its original filing on Aug. 27, 2010 by more than one year, and duplicates the system and method of recording a yoga class that YogaGlo is trying to patent. That video material clearly constitutes prior art that invalidates the claims in YogaGlo’s patent and renders it unenforceable.

On Oct. 19, YogaGlo’s lawyers received a letter from another online yoga vendor informing them about the video material that invalidates YogaGlo’s claims. To date, however, neither YogaGlo nor its lawyers have responded to that letter, and as far as we know YogaGlo has not reported this information to the USPTO.

We have received a number of emails from people claiming that other yoga schools and teachers have recorded videos of yoga classes using the same system and method that YogaGlo claims to have “invented,” and that they did so much earlier than YogaGlo. We have not had an opportunity to check those claims yet. But the fact that YogaGlo posted identical video material on its own site that predates the filing of its patent application by more than a year is significant because they are presumably aware of the existence of the material published on their own website.

During a patent application process, applicants who are or become aware of the existence of prior art that would invalidate their claim have a duty to report it to USPTO examiners. Applicants who fail to do so can face serious sanctions if and when they try to enforce a patent when this duty has been breached.

The USPTO has indicated that the YogaGlo patent will issue on Dec. 10. (The patent number, which has already been assigned, is U.S. Patent No. 8,605,152.) But as I noted above, the issuance of a patent doesn’t guarantee that its owner will be able to enforce it, and it may well be that YogaGlo will request consideration of the prior art that has been brought to its attention, which would require the company to withdraw its patent application. So we will see.”

With this information in mind, this patent process is by no means an over and done deal.

On the other hand, I initially found out about this patent approval from my editor-in-chief Waylon Lewis because, quite honestly, I delete almost all of the Yoga Alliance emails I get.

Let me tell you why.

One of my happiest personal accomplishments was the day that I could finally register with Yoga Alliance. As an RYT I get regular emails from this association, and the vast majority of them lately are advertisements.

To be fair, I’ve recently been horribly backed up with my email. I have several messages that I need to respond to, and I simply will not make time to read ads for things that I won’t be buying.

And this almost automatic deletion of YA emails has nothing to do with prAna or companies like it—nothing.

Instead, it’s the simple reality that for everyone, yoga is moving more and more towards business and money-making than it is towards a spiritual practice.

Of course I’m not arguing that yoga is, first and foremost, anything other than a practice that has nothing to do with business. (Just read my other recent yoga article Is Yoga America’s Religion on our national craving for what yoga fundamentally offers us—you know, things like love, harmony and lack of judgment.)

Yet the thing is this: we are turning yoga into a business, like it or not.

Students pay for classes. Teachers get paid. Studios pay rent.

Sure the practice of yoga might not be a business, but there’s absolutely a business element to practicing in this manner—and Yoga Alliance is actually responding to criticisms over the years that it does nothing for its members but take their money—by offering yoga product discounts and other benefits. (And note, too, that we can unsubscribe to these aforementioned emails if we want to.)

So YogaGlo and the new President and CEO Richard Karpel are essentially doing what paying members have been asking for—offering support to the community (for example, with this petition) and member benefits—and now they have an entirely new set of critiques—that they are now too involved and also acting on self-serving motives.

(Hmmm….Welcome to the balance of government and business.)

If YA is indeed wanting to help the yoga community prosper, then they by definition need to make a stand to help those that YogaGlo’s patent attempts to infringe upon (others who produce online yoga classes). Still, anytime we involve business and government, we also include the potential to have people who have no knowledge of the elemental, key services that are being extended. (Like teaching.)

In short, this argument is the same thing over and over again with different players and variable concerns: does yoga conflict with capitalism?

This parallels the megachurch phenomenon. It directly corresponds to yoga clothing manufacturers with poor labor and environmental practices.

Because when we involve money and business with a spiritual practice, something will likely give. What it is that gives depends on several factors, from the head-honcho head-players to us, the consumers.

So you don’t want YogaGlo’s patent to be successful? Then don’t take their classes.

Point: they are catering to an existing market. They are still popular. (Just like people are still buying those yoga clothes.)

And what does this mean?

It means that we are the problem.

It means that we want certain criterion to be met but we only want to pay x amount of dollars for the finished product—from classes to pants—and that we don’t want to walk our talk.

I’ll throw another example your way.

Remember when I wrote this article about why I couldn’t care less about posted yoga photos? My central theme was that people are posting photos because we’re all looking at them. Stop bitching about the pictures when all you have to do is stop looking at them.

While I have no intention of declaring yoga and capitalism as incompatible partners in this particular article, I will suggest this: let’s take a broader look at what’s happening underneath the surface of all of these relephant articles and subjects and dig deeply enough to examine at least the tip of the iceberg of the real problem.

And the real, central concern is this:

We’re taught within our yoga practices and communities not judge—and then we live in a culture rife with judgment.

We want fair wages to be paid to the workers who made our pants—but only if these garments cost an affordable amount of money.

We want yoga to remain a spiritual practice—but we also want to be able to attend classes at the studio down the street.

And none of these things are easily solved or completely clear-cut, which is why there’s so much debate within our community—only some of which revolves around YogaGlo’s patent.

And I’m now going to end this article the same way that I ended my piece on yoga selfies (not with that fake Gandhi quote, Waylon, don’t worry.)

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

~ Maya Angelou

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives

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