Pending Patent Ignites Controversy

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From Bikram's 26-pose sequence to Lululemon's yoga pants patent, copyrights, trademarks, and patents involving yoga have proven to be a hot-button issue. So it's no surprise that a recent pending patent involving the way online yoga videos are filmed has caused a lot of controversy in the yoga community.

The online yoga video website YogaGlo has filed for a patent on the filming perspective and classroom setup it uses in its streamed video content. It served Yoga International, a branch of the non-profit Himalayan Institute, with a cease-and-desist letter to enforce the patent. This patent, if issued, could potentially stop other yoga websites from setting up a yoga classroom with an aisle down the center of the room, students on either side, and teacher in the front.

Yoga International shared the news of the cease and desist letter through a statement on its website Monday. “This tradition has always been about students gaining wisdom from their teachers and expanding upon that wisdom to become great teachers themselves,” the statement read. “The concept of controlling of owning a part of that process is very foreign to us.” The statement also raised questions about how the patent could impact individual yoga teachers who wish to share videos online.

YogaGlo responded on the YogaGlo blog. “In order to continue to provide our community with this distinctive online yoga class experience at an affordable price, YogaGlo is required to protect its intellectual property, just like any other online business,” wrote YogaGlo CEO Derik Mills. Mills said that YogaGlo was founded on the principles of giving more access to yoga, and supports “any website that shares that mission.”

It didn’t sit well with many commenters, who promised to cancel their subscriptions in protest. "This patent and lawsuit is the antithesis of yoga," wrote one. "Disappointing, but unfortunately, many people play the role of yoga, but do not truly walk the path. Clearly, as an organization, your mission is to make money rather than deliver the truth of yoga."