Another yoga lawsuit, this time over online classes

We’re seeing a little bit of hysteria over a story going around today about YogaGlo — arguably the most successful provider of online yoga classes — sending a cease and desist order to a competitor, Yoga International (apparently the former magazine by the same name, now an online-only outfit), because YogaGlo has applied for a patent on how it films and demonstrates the classes.

The Yoga Blog has the main coverage I’ve seen (and here is Yoga International’s own piece on it, which Yoga Blog quotes):

Following the route of BikramYogaGlo has applied for a PATENT on their “specific” setup for online Yoga classes as of May 23.
The system and method place the instructor at the head of the classroom with live-participants arranged between the instructor and the camera with a direct line of sight between the camera and the instructor allowing for the viewer participant to have unobstructed views while simultaneously allowing for the viewer participant to have live participants in the periphery, as if the viewer was attending a live class.

This is not someone trying to patent yoga, or even a form of yoga (ala Bikram). The Yoga Blog makes this clear in an update — via a response from YogaGlo:

First, we want to make it very clear that YogaGlo has no intention to trademark, copyright or patent yoga itself or how yoga classes are set up and taught. That is not what we believe in and it is not what yoga is about.

We are simply protecting the proprietary filming perspective which makes YogaGlo’s online classes distinct. YogaGlo’s filming perspective was developed to help online users feel like they’re participating in the class from a remote location. People have independently acknowledged and recognized the look and feel of YogaGlo’s videos, including commenting on the unique setup of the classroom. This acknowledgement happened today, in fact, on the very post we link to above. With just a few short descriptors, many commenters immediately identified YogaGlo.

In this sense, the story isn’t quite as far-reaching as it first looks. But it still raises the always combative topic of yoga as a business, yoga as a commercial enterprise, etc.

My thinking — always subject to change because I’m not a politician — is that a lot of yoga, as I understand it, has had a air of business and commercialization about it, going back those thousands of years we all enjoy claiming. Traveling yogis needed to eat and be supported, after all — and I think we all can guess that the more charismatic, the more dramatic, the more theatric, aka the charlatans, probably got the nicest meals and softest beds.

The “real yogis,” then and now, probably toiled mostly in anonymity.

I’m also not a lawyer, but I’m initially skeptical that YogaGlo can patent a way of filming. If there is a technology involved (aka 3D), maybe, but a technique seems to me to be a little tougher. It feels akin to Hitchcock patenting his style or J.J. Abrams patenting his lens flares.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

10 thoughts on “Another yoga lawsuit, this time over online classes”

  1. Interesting — Actually cease and desist based on patent rights is improper until patent issues. Perhaps claim is based on trade dress — this is a hard legal road to hoe.

  2. I am a YogaGlo paying member… Maybe YogaGlo will be forced to change their setup which I don’t particularly like… Mainly, having students who aren’t very good at the back of the class which should be reversed for filming…. A few other camera hands should be set up for the occasional close up. Good luck in their lawsuit though. Humility???

  3. Nothing wrong with a talented yogi making a living of her/passion passion. But it seems indeed rather silly to patent a way of filming a yoga class. (the only logical way anyone would film a class) It looks like they want to ruin the market for their competitors like myyoga online and EkhartYoga out of fear, or worse, out of greed. Very disappointing because YogaGlo does not need to do that. However, if I was a member I would not like to see my contribution being spent on lawsuits and ridiculous patents and look elsewhere for my online yoga.

  4. I don’t think YogaGlo has a very good patent attorney if they actually got this far into the application process. I read the claims and any decent examiner is going to reject this. There is a requirement that the invention be novel and not obvious to anyone with reasonable proficiency in the “art.” Not to mention the prior art problem. There are plenty of yoga DVDs that have been recorded with similar layouts to what is shown in the patent claims. And it is not a novel idea to post such a video online (in fact it has been done many times as a short YouTube search will show).

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