Zen And The Art Of Patent Protecting Zen Art

from the how-very-unzen dept

A person who prefers to remain anonymous points us to the “legal” page for an operation called Zentangle, which is apparently a method of creating artwork, with a bit of zen thrown in. But, what struck the submitter (and us) as particularly unzen, was the focus on intellectual property up and down the page. It doesn’t seem particularly “zen” to demand how everyone should refer to Zentangle. There may be a legitimate trademark interest (though, it does look like they’re overprotecting), but where things really get bizarre is the claim that the method for teaching this particular form of art is patent pending.

Indeed, the folks behind this have a pending patent application (which is also embedded below), and as you might imagine it seems a bit silly. Just for kicks, here’s claim one:

1. A method for creating an abstract artwork, comprising the steps of:

a) Instructing a user to mark dots around the inside perimeter of a marking surface, using a temporary marking device;
b) Instructing the user to connect the dots with the temporary marking device, creating a border around the inside perimeter;
c) Instructing the user to draw with the temporary marking device one or more lines within the border which create a section or sections within the border;
d) Instructing the user to choose one of a plurality of predetermined patterns, and to draw with a permanent marking device the chosen pattern within a chosen section defined within the border;
e) Instructing the user to make each stroke deliberate and intentional;
f) Instructing the user to choose another of the plurality of predetermined patterns, and to draw the other chosen pattern within another chosen section;
g) Reminding the user to watch the tile evolve;
h) Alerting the user that the patterns are all accomplished by a series of repetitive strokes, intended to deliberately capture the user’s attention;
i) Alerting the user that the engagement of the hand and eye, in combination with the effect of the repetitive motions, enables a shift of focus and perspective, and relaxation;
j) Instructing the user to shade different areas of the tile using a pencil or other temporary marking device;
k) Instructing the user to blend the shading by rubbing with a fingertip;
l) Instructing the user to sign the tile with the permanent marking device;
m) Instructing the user to view and appreciate the new patterns and lines created that may not have been planned; and
n) Instructing a user to document a back side of the tile.

Does that really deserve a patent? Thankfully, it appears that the folks in the patent office aren’t so sure it deserves a patent either. Looking through the transaction history, you see that patent examiners have rejected it eight times, with four of those being “final” rejections (and, no, the word “final” doesn’t mean what it means in the rest of the world when it comes from the Patent Office where no rejection is ever final — you can just keep trying). Hopefully this continues, but really, the amount of effort that’s been put into “intellectual property” here seems to go way beyond what makes sense, and hardly seems to fit with the “zen” theme. Sure, a trademark could make sense if you’re going to build a brand around the name (though, a common law trademark probably would have been just as effective), but a patent? Seriously?

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Companies: zentangle

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Comments on “Zen And The Art Of Patent Protecting Zen Art”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Goes back even further than that. Making pinholes along the edges of a drawing or pattern, placing it on a surface, then applying charcoal dust/paste or some other marking material upon it would leave a “dot to dot” replication that could be traced easily – rudimentary transfer method.

Couldn’t tell you where I picked that up, TV, tour, school… or why I still remember it, ha. Something about it being used in colonial times, too, or maybe ancient Egypt?

It’s a drag, getting old. 😉

Willton says:

Re: Zen and the Art of Trademark Maintenance

It seems to me all those points involve “instructing” or “reminding” the user. Can a set of instructions be patented/copyrighted?

Maybe copyrighted, but certainly not patented. Methods are patentable if they provide a practical application of an abstract idea and produce a tangible result. Instructions to perform a method do neither and are thus non-statutory subject matter under Section 101 of the Patent Act.

As you might have guessed, the Examiner picked up on this and issued a 101 rejection. The claims have undergone significant amending since.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 8 times?

Overcoming a final rejection requires the applicant to pay a so-called request for continued examination fee, which is currently $810 (reduced by half for qualifying small entity applicants). alternatively the final rejection can be appealed to an appeals board, but this also has an associated fee.

Willton says:

Re: Re:

They claim to have a registered trademark on the phrase: “Anything is possible one stroke at a time”

However, when they use that phrase, here for example, they use the common-law mark (TM). Is it registered or not?

Maybe. You’d have to look it up on the Principal Register at the USPTO.

A (TM) symbol is an indicator that it is not registered yet, and a (R) symbol indicates that the mark is registered. But no amount of symbol use is conclusive evidence of whether a mark is registered or not. The users of such symbols could be doing so incorrectly and/or inappropriately.

Michael Bender (profile) says:

Capitalism on crack

I’m blown away as I read how the intellectual bullying has sunk to the pipe. I doubt the integrity of these patent’s pending since as they read they would attempt to limit the ability to sell certain object in kits as well as an art style that has been commonly known as doodling since the invention of the phone and the conversation. This smells of an attempt to bully those folks who are afraid of breaking laws out of their right to use their grandma’s tactile way of calming and creating their mind. The fact that it blares the name Zen at us housed in the threat just adds ignorance to insult. Zen-bullies should be boycotted..

By-the-way…the Egyptians should be sued retrospectively as there are many similar drawings on so-called ancient tombs…I sense a time traveling conspiracy!

PenandInk777 says:

Is Zentangle about Drawing or only making a Profit?

I see that the last comment was Aug. 21, 2011 and today is Aug. 15, 2012.

First I would like to say what I like about Zentangle (R) Inc.. Zentangle has made a well known art form popular with the general public and also has help people to find a simple art form to do without the stress of making a mistake and also has made a community among artists and has given people hope and has been a stress release too the general population that has never heard of this type of art form before. Zentangle also has helped new artists to find a place in the art world by inspiring them to sale their artwork and also other artist that has done this type of artwork before Zentangle was around has given them a market to sale their artwork and make a living from this type of artwork.

That it seems like Zentangle is trying to monopolize and trying to control how a person does art. And to my understanding is that ART can not be put in a box.

1. First, Zentangle said that their patent was to keep big companies from taking over, but they contradict this saying by using the phrase “we have a patent pending” when they put it next to who can teach their methods. Because, I email asking if I could teach from their books (at that moment I did not know anything about copyright, patents, trademarks and I wanted to ask for their permission out of good faith). What I got from them (which they was nice about it was go back and read what is on our website) you can not teach from any of our books unless you are a CZT because we have a trademark, copyright, patenting pending, etc., and we will not support you! By the way, their website is always changing and I was shock how they want anyone that profit from them to pay them Royalties, but they later ask for a donation. This along has made me wonder about what is their real reason behind their company, but understand their is nothing wrong about making money but if you make a big deal about “we just want others to draw for the relaxation and then tell the general public that come to your website that you must protect your CZTs investments. I just wonder how much does people pay to become a CZT and then later get told that we can not help you with your business because this is beyond your abilities, but if your business profit from us then we would like Royalties from you.”

Zentangle, Inc., needs two website one that is just for the general public where they put their products and the others for professionals and their CZTs can access because some people might read this and think it is just a scam. And this can untangle all their good intentions of just getting the general public to draw.

However, I felt like they did not respect the fact that I rightfully purchased the book. Then, I felt something is not right about this because I just want to use it as a reference to help students as an Art Facilitator in an after school program. This too was a contradict of their marketing, because they said that Zentangle was to help people and to get people to draw and reduce stress, etc., I thought this was their main reason was to put ART over profit.

So, I did some research and found out that patterns are copyright free, and a patent will not keep me from using a book as a reference to teach from, but I also learned that their trademark keep others from using their name and logo, and phrases and claiming to be CZTs without their permission. Also, currently Zentangle does acknowledge on their website that if you become a CZT that they have no control over others teaching Zentangle.

I am sorry, I am very long winded, and I will say with Zentangle it does seem like they do want to take over a well known art form that children in school do, and artist like myself learned this doodling in pen and ink in our college design art school, and Doodling Artist that has done this before Zentangle was around. I do understand the need for Zentangle to protect their trademark, but not this art form, it does not belong just to them regardless if they dress it up in a new name Zentangle and give repeat patterns a new name called tangle, and use new vocabulary to describe their directions in drawing one of their tangles.

Last, I would like to say and no disrespect that they have the right to apply for a patent but to keep applying just for the sake to keep others from using a common well-known art form and to design a kit similar to theirs and profiting from it sounds like monopolizing the doodling repeat pattern artform and also if they have the longest record of applying for a patent if they are just trying to molopoize this artform this I would say that it would undermining the system (which is not a new thing) and when their patent gets turned down they have a false claim floating around in their books , but as soon as it gets rejected then they are no longer having a patent pending. Maybe the patent office has a time period for this, and maybe the patent office might need to put a time limited on how many patent a person can make within a given time, because this could be seen as an unethical/dishonest tactic done out of fear trying to manipulating the U.S. Patent Office to protect their profits.

But thank God that Coke Cola, IBM, Ford, did not stop others from designing similar product.

It is not fair just to have one kit on the market to do your doodling from and also if the company is using patent pending just to stop others from making a similar product might come across to some as an underhanded business tactic to control art kit of doodling repeat patterns.

Art belongs to everyone and for everyone to profit from, however, if someone does a composition artwork then it belongs to them and they have the right to copyright. I feel very strongly that no one have the right to just copy someone whole doodling artwork and claim it as theirs but they do have the right to use the patterns that they use because patterns are copyright free, however, a trademark pattern I understand is not free to use in ones artwork.

Last, I give full credit to Zentangle, Inc., for making repeat patterns popular among the general public.

I have emailed Zentangle, Inc (R) in the past, but the whole thing about trying to patent simple doodling drawing instruction has turned me off and I do not at this moment want to email them again but if I did I would say to Mr. Rick and Maria in good faith for their company not to come across as controlling the doodling repeat patterns business.

1. Have two websites one for general public and other for CZTs where they can put all the stuff where others get turned off by all of their do’s and don’ts and etc., (People just want to see the patterns and buy product and read a little about who you are)

2. Out of fear someone will take over their company Zentangle has everybody to print that they are the creator and founders of a well-known art form but it is a lie they are the creators of the name Zentangle and have made this type of art form popular to the general public., etc., Because the more people read this it will upset some people that has done this kind of art form before Zentangle existed. This way no one can take the fact that Zentangle has made this doodling repeat patterns popular and has given it a new trendy name that all can enjoy.

Zentangle should be able hire someone that can make this happen for them, because it is so true that I knew about this art form and enjoyed doing it but I truly did not appreciated until Zentangle launch it with their new name and calling repeat patterns tangles and then I thought hey, I do this or I did this in college and the public school art teacher has the children doing this all the time when the teach the element and principle are art.

3. Also, stop using “patent pending or we have apply for a patenting” to scare others away from designing a similar ART KIT and to use this to try to intimidate non-CZTs to use your product to profit from are compete with your trained CZTs. (Like one person say it sound like bullying others). It is the American way or the World way if one has a product that everyone likes that others will try to make a product similar to profit from, which might decrease your profit or your customers will turn to them, for example not everyone likes Coke(R) but drinks other soft drinks.

4. Last, in your seminars I know you can not help your CZTs with their business plan, etc., and I do understand a little but please share with them the most diplomatic way to reply to a negative book reviews or best not to make a comment but to see if there is some truth in what the reviewers says and improve on the next book and not attack or defended their book because this will turn people off from not just buying that authors book but all of Zentangle, Inc., product.

Last, I give full credit to Zentangle, Inc., for making repeat patterns popular among the general public.

This is PENANDINK777

I think I have nothing else to say about Zentangle because I think I have said it all, thanks for reading my long, long, comment.

Karen says:


You can all complain about their protection of the brand. That’s of no importance to me. Here’s what I know about Zentangle. Two people have promoted an art form that offers people like me the skill and confidence to produce something that makes me happy and satisfied! I have NEVER been able to create anything on paper that was even recognizable until I was introduced to Zentangle. If Rick and Maria want to protect the brand – hats off to them, and by the way – they spend one entire day of the teaching seminars talking about business practices and marketing for the certified teachers. Just Google Zentangle and you will find the ingenuity of thousands of people like me who have found something in the Zentangle process that has become very important to them. Laura Harms (Iamthediva.com) has had more than 100,000 visitors to her Zentangle weekly challenge. Ask some of those people if they care about patents. Long story short for me – Zentangle has made a difference to me and patents are of no concern/interest to me. Karen CZT in RI

Swathi says:

I agree

I completely agree with you. Art is free, now what is this? Btw, they are patenting the teaching procedure. Soo lame, I have been doing this doodling/so-called-zentangles much before they made an application to register for it. Nobody taught me how to do it, its just that I know to do it. Nobody can teach a person to do zentangles, a person can do it himself if he can hold a pen and repeat lines and circles. A nicely written article, you can send this as an ‘opposition’ to the patent filed by them in the US Patent registry.

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