Many of you will remember the YogaGlo patent fiasco of yesteryore. Actually, it wasn’t really so long ago. At the end of September, we heard that online yoga class service YogaGlo had sent cease and desist letters to various other online yoga websites, including Yoga International, who broke their silence about it online. The letters served as a warning due to a pending patent application YogaGlo submitted that would provide them ownership over a specific camera angle and classroom setup for their online yoga videos. Meaning, no one else could use this setup without YogaGlo permission or paying comeuppance.
Confusion, frustration and fiasco-ness ensued. Besides the public outcry and general distaste for anything combining “yoga” and “patent,” many customers were moved to go ahead and cancel their YogaGlo account. Yoga Alliance got involved and started a petition urging YogaGlo to see the error of their ways and voluntarily withdraw the patent applications because it could cause problems for yoga teachers and studios wanting to distribute their own videos and “the idea of recording a yoga video in a classroom setting, no matter how specifically limited by the patent claims, is not what most of us think of as an “invention.” Though the petition received over 14,000 signatures, the patent process continued and on October 29, the patent was approved.
So here we are. What does this mean? Yoga International has already taken preliminary steps to avoid more trouble just in case the patent is enforced (which we don’t really know yet due to the “prior art” clause and timing of the “invention.”) Even so, YI has already removed 14 of their online classes and is offering the rest of them for free/by-donation while things get sorted out.
YI’s Executive Director Todd Wolfenberg stated in an open letter to YogaGlo posted December 11:
It is unclear to us from the final patent language as to whether these classes infringe in any way, but as a non-profit organization we neither have the financial resources available to undertake a legal dispute, nor do we wish to lose focus on our mission to bring yoga into the world.
…As you consider your options going forward, we sincerely hope that you join us in our effort to make yoga and its distribution more accessible to everyone.
Yoga Alliance, who broke the news that the patent was indeed approved, is still sniffing out the case. YA Richard Karpel released a statement questioning the enforceability of the patent:
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.
It’s hard to say what happens next exactly, and really, it’s YogaGlo’s move. So far they’ve remained silent regarding recent developments and have yet responded to Yoga International’s request for comment.
To learn more we encourage you to read these posts from Yoga International and Yoga Alliance: