Trademarking and Patenting yoga is a yuckie conversation to have and while I don’t arrogantly believe that 26 postures can be patented, trademarking is something that you absolutely should start think as a professional business owner. First, grab a little background information on the distinction between
“exercises, including yoga exercises, do not constitute the subject matter Congress intended to protect as choreography. Thus, [the Copyright Office] will not register such exercises (including yoga movements), whether described as exercises or as selection and ordering of movements.”
which has been a hot topic in the yoga patent litigation world…and the trademarking of your beautifully branded logo (mark), name, tagline or slogan. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. We’re talking about protecting your business name (identity, pictures and words) versus patenting the specific asanas you string together or how you set up your yoga class.
Your logo is an essential part of your business. It’s how people recognize you. When you build your yoga biz, you (usually) also create a logo (and other branding) that identifies your beautiful yoga business among a sea of others. It’s the identity and personality of your business. In addition to your logo and branding, you’ve probably developed some catchy names, taglines and slogans that are unique to your business. You’ve worked long and hard developing your (yoga) goods, they are a significant aspect of your business assets – you need to make sure you protect them!
In a former business, my partner developed a line of tee shirts called Be Your Own Guru or BYOG for short and I developed a yoga training program associated with them. We never bothered to trademark this brilliant string of words or the acronym and guess what? Two years later another yoga business launched a ‘Be Your Own Guru’ yoga training. I was totally heartbroken, a tiny bit irritated but mostly I was smacking myself in the head pissed over never TMing the logo, the words, or even slapping it on the shirts and in the manual. It was like a 30-10-50 ratio of emotion there.
Here’s the skinny:
Registering a Trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office can be a little complicated (if you’re not familiar) and more than a little expensive. When you register something with the USPTO, you are then allowed to put at ® symbol, meaning you are federally registered. Now, just because you’re not federally registered, slapping that fancy little R with the circle on everything, doesn’t mean you can’t protect the things you’ve poured your time and energy into! The great thing about trademark is that it’s first in time, first in right. That means, the second you slap a “TM” on your business name, you’re putting the world on notice that you’re using it. In the legal world, this is called putting the public on constructive notice of your claim, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the USPTO!
Make sure your you cover your asana and protect your business! Don’t let someone scoop up your brilliant ideas because you were too lazy to slap on a TM or officially file a trademark with the USPTO. Have a question? Leave it in the comments below! Empower yourself with knowledge so you can skyrocket your yoga business!