January 13, 2015

"Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an effort to have yoga become recognized first and foremost as an Indian practice grounded in the Hindu tradition."

"For India to effectively claim to own yoga, Modi would need to secure what’s called a 'geographical indication.'"
A geographical indication is a formal acknowledgement of location’s importance to a specific product—in the European Union, it’s what protects a fizzy beverage made in the Champagne region of France from imitators produced elsewhere...

The U.S. Patent and Trade Office acknowledges this vagueness, and as a result there’s a lot of champagne sold in the U.S. that’s not from Champagne, and there’s nothing that France can do about it. Similarly, the E.U. has squabbled with the U.S. for selling cheeses labeled “Rocquefort” and “Mozzarella" without verifying their origins.

What’s working against Modi, in the case of yoga, is that it’d be difficult to establish a concrete geographical connection. Unlike champagne—which is made from grapes grown in a particular region with distinct weather conditions and soil content—yoga can’t be held in your hand.
This seems to be an effort to extract money, not to be confused with the "Take Back Yoga" initiative, an effort to refocus yoga on its original goal of spiritual liberation.

24 comments:

Fernandinande said...

A geographical indication is ... what protects a fizzy beverage made in the Champagne region of France from imitators produced elsewhere...

So they have a shiny new(?) name for a bad old idea, namely "rent seeking".

there’s nothing that France can do about it.

Ha ha. Good.

Curious George said...

"The U.S. Patent and Trade Office acknowledges this vagueness, and as a result there’s a lot of champagne sold in the U.S. that’s not from Champagne, and there’s nothing that France can do about it."

Like those cheese eating surrender monkeys WOULD do something about it.

Alexander said...

Which is all well and good, but does make it curious how the United States complains about Chinese knockoff companies and products, or software piracy.

Stealing brand-names that others have through time and effort turned into a standard of high quality for me, but not for thee.

Fernandinande said...

So they have a shiny new(?) name...

The term became a fad in about 1990.

The Drill SGT said...

I feel for the Rolex guys.

I have some sympathy for the Champagne guys.

Less for the Cheddar cheese guys.

None for the Yoga guys...

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I am Hella more offended reading ^*+€ing cliches like "first and f^*+most" than any Muslim could ever be regarding any damned cartoon.

I shall not kill.

I ain't gonna be stealing neither.

Nor lusting after married women.

Etc...

jacksonjay said...

Keep Austin Weird

NotquiteunBuckley said...

White privilege is a human right that ought be forced into the brains of every sentient being.

There is no other answer than white privilege for all, under God.

White privilege is the new black.

I am mega Yogi.

pm317 said...

This seems to be an effort to extract money

Disagree. Yoga practices date back centuries in India even before the US came to be. It is about preserving the integrity and origin of a product.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Will the US Patent and Trade Office step in to insure that your Maui Wowie was actually grown in Maui?

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

pm317 said...
Yoga practices date back centuries in India even before the US came to be.


So does their current widespread practice of defecating in a public ditch and using hands to wipe. Go India!

Anglelyne said...

The U.S. Patent and Trade Office acknowledges this vagueness, and as a result there’s a lot of champagne sold in the U.S. that’s not from Champagne, and there’s nothing that France can do about it.

Not that that's anything they should worry about. In the U.S. only the carbonated Ripple on the lower shelves is ever labeled "champagne". Better-quality American sparkling wines, never. I doubt the august houses of Champagne are losing custom because somebody paying $5.99 for a bottle of gassy stuff has been hoodwinked, and would otherwise be stumping up a minimum of 6X that amount for the real thing.

Same for mass-market "Rocquefort" and "Mozarella" and "Parmesan". At the higher end, it's not as if I'm not perfectly well aware that that the "gorgonzola" in my fridge is from Wisconsin. Is "genuinely fraudulent" labeling really a big problem for European exporters to the U.S.? I doubt it, though it does seem to be the case for some Asian countries.

As for yoga, well, if American SWPLs can make up a branch of Unitarianism and call it "Buddhism", there's not much hope for getting all those Lululemon-wearing ladies to stop calling whatever trendy moves they're doing at their gyms this week "yoga".

pm317 said...

Someone has to say it, indeed! What a nasty thing to say. Shame on you!

madAsHell said...

It's all about the women, and an excuse to wear tight yoga pants.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!!

Peter said...

"So does their current widespread practice of defecating in a public ditch and using hands to wipe."

Well, OK, but you've got to know which hand you're supposed to use for that (and not offer to shake hands with it).


But attempting to trademark cultural practices seem futile, as all cultures have always stolen, borrowed, and adapted whatever foreign practices seemed useful or amusing, until these practices became assimilated and un-foreign.

It's almost as bad an idea as, umm, software patents.

MRG said...

One of the local Madison gyms (Princeton Club), owned by severe Christians, calls yoga "power stretch" or something similar instead. But if you take the class, it's yoga.

Your yoga experience in the US depends completely on your instructor. It a broad spectrum from old-lady/dopey hippie New Age yoga to the purely physical. There isn't really a standard that I can tell.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

pm317 said...
Someone has to say it, indeed! What a nasty thing to say. Shame on you!


I note that you didn't say it was untrue.

And was just a comment about dewy-eyed cherry-picking of a culture's practices and traditions.

India has a long way to go to join the 21st century.

Jane the Actuary said...

Better solution: form a professional association/credential, say, Certified Yoga Instructor, whose members are required to pay dues to some Indian rent-seekers. Then (a) market the product: "if your Yoga teacher isn't a CYI, then you're not getting an authentic product" and (b) get your various state legislatures to forbid yoga instructors from opening up shop without the requisite credential.

Easy as pie.

traditionalguy said...

What, are the Yogis claiming the stretching exercises are a spiritual activity?

Scott said...

When I was taking a short course in meditation at a Buddhist monastery, I heard grumbling from the monks that people were coming to learn meditation but weren't interested in becoming Buddhists.

Clyde said...

Anyone who has read the Bhagavad Gita would know that Modi is correct about the Hindu tradition. Hinduism is, of course, portable. There is a Hindu temple here in town. One can do stretching exercises and meditation with no knowledge of the story of Krishna and Arjuna, just as one can do meditation without knowledge of the Eight-fold Path of Buddhism. Both Hinduism and Buddhism are religions that emphasize asceticism and self-renunciation that are out of vogue in Western societies (Early Christianity did the same). Many are called, few are chosen.

MarkW said...

"Stealing brand-names that others have through time and effort turned into a standard of high quality for me, but not for thee."

But 'Champagne' is no more a brand than 'Pizza' (can you imagine the city of Naples Italy trying to reclaim it? Or the village of Cheddar England trying to reclaim the cheese?)

On the other hand, 'Veuve Clicquot' is a brand of Champagne and is protected by trademark law in the U.S. as it should be.

The Godfather said...

Would this mean that yoga studios would be protected by RFRA?

Anonymous said...

Champagne is recognized as a special term for wine in the US. We made a deal that grandfathered in the wineries that were making Champagne at the time of the agreement. I think most of the big wineries no longer use the term anymore but some still do.

Historical note: protection of this and other AOCs ("appellation d'origin controlle") were in the Versailles Treaty but the U.S. was entering Prohibition so did not sign onto that because it wasn't going to be necessary. AOCs are protected in France and most European countries have equivalents. Details vary but generally for a type of food, it indicates a geographic area in the country and some restrictions on ingredients and techniques with a supposed quality level. Multiple producers can qualify to use the AOC (or equivalent) such as multiple producers of Champagne, Gruyere or Parma ham.

The U.S. has introduced something of an equivalent in the AVA (American viticultural area) but to the best of my recollection, it only applies to wine and only applies to the percentage of grapes from that area used in the particular wine.

These are all protected in the U.S. By the TTB which controls alcohol labeling under the Federal Alcohol Act.