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An Update on YogaGlo’s Patent Application

October 11, 2013

We now have over 13,000 signatures on our online petition urging YogaGlo to withdraw the patent application it filed claiming ownership over a particular “method and apparatus” of recording yoga classes. The fact that so many individuals have taken the time to sign the petition is an indication of the yoga community’s ardent opposition to the patent.

I have spoken with YogaGlo CEO Derek Mills and Gregory French, the company’s chief strategy officer and head of business affairs. So far they have not indicated a willingness to withdraw the application.

This is an important policy issue for Yoga Alliance®. If YogaGlo receives this patent, it could prevent other yoga instructors -- including the yoga teachers and schools that are members of our organization -- from distributing video recordings of yoga classes in a format they desire without first paying a licensing fee to YogaGlo.

We have learned a great deal about the patent application since we issued our statement two weeks ago:

  • YogaGlo has submitted not one, but two patent applications for essentially the same idea, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has already issued preliminary communications in which all the claims in both applications have been rejected as being unpatentable. So when YogaGlo sent a demand letter to Yoga International last month, they already knew that the USPTO had specifically rejected all the pending claims upon which the letter was based.
  • In their rejection notices, the USPTO asserted that at the time of their “invention,” YogaGlo’s patent claims were obvious to individuals with ordinary skill in the art. The first application was rejected on July 3, 2013, and the rejection was based on a combination of a yoga patent application published in 2002 and later abandoned, and other “prior art” (the legal term for information available before a patent application is filed that can be used to invalidate a claim). The second application was rejected one month later, on Aug. 5, 2013, based on the same combination of factors.
  • The USPTO also rejected YogaGlo’s patent claims on the basis of  “double patenting,” since their second patent application essentially repeated the claims filed in the first. The second application is a “continuation application,” which generally repeats all of the “teachings” of a previous application while adding or changing elements in the claims. However, in this particular case, YogaGlo didn’t change any of their claims.
  • The following statements made by YogaGlo last week on their website are inconsistent with the content of the claims pending in their applications*:
    • “We are not trying to patent how a teacher might film instruction for their students in their own studio or how one might wish to film a DVD.”
    • “Our patent application deals very specifically with online streaming yoga classes, and in that, it deals with only one of many possible ways to film online streaming yoga classes.”

The claims in the patent applications do apply to yoga teachers who utilize what YogaGlo calls its “method” and/or “apparatus” of recording yoga classes. In fact, yoga teachers or studio owners don’t even need to distribute a DVD or stream it online to violate YogaGlo’s claim; setting up their studio in the manner described in the patent application claims would be enough to trigger a violation.

YogaGlo has six months from the date of each USPTO communication to respond to each of the rejections and/or amend the claims in their applications.

It is clear that at present the USPTO isn’t convinced that YogaGlo’s claims are patentable. But even if the claimed idea is patentable, Yoga Alliance would still be opposed to the application, for the same reason the yoga community erupted in anger when they heard about it: 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.” The fact that a company like YogaGlo could “own” that idea shocks the conscience.

For that reason, we can’t simply trust the legal process to unfold and hope for the best. The patent system is broken and many patents are issued that reward greed and impede innovation. We are not alone in holding this view. In fact, both Congress, which is considering a bill to limit patent abuse, and the White House, which recently issued several executive orders on the same subject, agree that the system must be reformed.

Our preference is that YogaGlo withdraw their application, but if they decline, we will take our case to the USPTO. We will have at least two opportunities to do that, both before and after a patent is issued. We will let you know more as the case unfolds.

In the meantime, we encourage you to continue to let YogaGlo know, in a civil and respectful manner, how you feel about their application, on their website or Facebook page, or by leaving a comment after signing our petition. Posting angry or harsh comments, or inflating the scope of the potential patent, is counterproductive since it leads others to discount your opinion. It also allows YogaGlo to assert that those of us who oppose their application don’t understand their patent.

And that is wrong. We understand very well what is at stake here, which is why we’re opposed to this patent.

* The pending patent claim #1 reads as follows (the image in the upper-right hand corner of this page was an illustration of the claim that was included in YogaGlo's patent application):

A system for automatically producing a video representation of a yoga class configured so a remote viewer enjoys the experience of being in a real yoga class, the system comprising:

  • a studio having a front area and a rear area;
  • an instructor position located in the front area and facing the rear area;
  • an image capturing device for capturing video located in the rear area and disposed to capture an image of the instructor in the instructor position; a line of sight corridor disposed between the image capturing device and the instructor;
  • a plurality of student positions, facing the instructor position, distributed across the studio between the instructor position and the image capturing device wherein the student positions do not impinge upon the corridor;
  • sound capture equipment to capture at least audio of the instructions given by the instructor disposed in the instructor position to the students disposed in the student positions; and
  • means for combining the audio and the video to form a video representation.

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