Should Viniyoga Be Legally or Ethically Eligible for Trademarking Now By KHYF and Kausthub Desikachar?

Dear Kausthub Desikachar,

This is in reply to your Happy Valentine’s Day email.

We are waiting for you to address this and other issues raised on this website with a factual explanation.

Save Yoga, Save Women Team

From Kausthub Desikachar’s email dated February 14, 2018:

Viniyoga is a term coined by T Krishnamacharya in the context of Yoga and had been used by him since the 1920s. His inspiration to use this phrase was none other than the great Maharsi Patañjali, who has spoken about the concept of individualizing practices in his text the Yogasutra.”

(See his email.)

This statement is false already, practically in Kausthub’s own words.

Krishnamacharya did not “coin the term” viniyoga “in the context of yoga.” How could he? The word “viniyoga” is used by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra, obviously in the context of yoga, more than a thousand years ago. The word is in the Yoga Sutra, Chapter 3, Sutra 6, and appears to be used in a meaning similar to that Krishnamacharya used it in—to apply the practice in steps or stages or in an individualized way.

And further, a simple search shows that the word “viniyoga” dates back to usage in Vedic times in a similar context of appropriate or tailored use.

According to Nolo.com:

“Generic terms never receive protection because such terms cannot fulfill the function of a mark, which is to distinguish specific goods or services from competing ones. Therefore they belong in the public domain rather than to an exclusive owner.”

(SOURCE: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-generic-terms-why-cant-they-be-used-for-trademarks.html)

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office:

“Generic words are the weakest types of “marks” (and cannot even qualify as “marks” in the legal sense) and are never registrable or enforceable against third parties.”

(SOURCE: https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/BasicFacts.pdf)

Attempting to trademark the word “Viniyoga” now is like trying to trademark “Yoga.”

Let Us Examine This

Viniyoga was used from Vedic times in the meaning of contextual application.

Viniyoga was used in the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali in the context of yoga in a similar meaning.

Krishnamacharya used the word since the 1920s according to Kausthub Desikachar in a meaning similar to Patanjali.

Later TKV Desikachar popularized the word further by asking his numerous students to use it from the 1970s and 1980s.

In the context of this history, the KHYF was formed only in 2006 and has been in existence for just 12 years.

How is the word “viniyoga” representative of only Kausthub Desikachar and KHYF?

Why should KHYF be eligible to trademark a generic word that already in use for thousands of years, including in the context of yoga?

Further, for several decades now, others teachers in the tradition of Desikachar use the word in exactly the same meaning that KHYF uses it.

By Kausthub Desikachar’s own logic, everyone who provides the service of individualized practices of yoga should be able to use “Viniyoga,” especially all the students of TKV Desikachar who he encouraged to use that label, without any harassment or limitations.

(TKV Desikachar later asked that students stop using the label Viniyoga to describe his teachings, which would also go entirely against Kausthub’s claim to use Viniyoga to represent TKV Desikachar’s teachings now. We examine this in a separate post.)

By trademarking Viniyoga, the obvious result is this: only if Viniyoga teachers follow KHYF and Kausthub Desikachar’s dictates or demands (and pay money for registration and other fees), they can use the word Viniyoga—a word they have already been using for years to decades, independent of Kausthub Desikachar or the KHYF.

What is the “protection” Kausthub and KHYF are claiming to offer Viniyoga, which has been thriving well on its own—aside from protection from legal harassment by KHYF and Kausthub Desikachar?

 

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