Hunting Down Unlicensed Instructors

By Jennifer Sage On November 6, 2013 Under General Advice

keep calm and zumbaI’d be really curious to hear your thoughts on this. The legal department for Zumba has recently published a list of individuals and facilities in 31 countries who are teaching Zumba® without holding the proper, current license to do so. Here is that list.

What do you think? They certainly are within their rights, since their trademark usage requires a current license and certified instructors. Do you think a fitness company should post a list of uncertified instructors teaching without a license or certification, which is a violation of their copyright?

Let’s take this one step further. Since this is an indoor cycling community, do you think that Mad Dogg Athletics and Spinning® should follow Zumba’s lead and publish a list of unlicensed instructors and facilities who are unlawfully using the Spinning® brand? (It would be a LOT larger list, wouldn’t it?!) If not a public list, do you think there should be more legal oversight, but behind the scenes? Do you think it would potentially have an impact on the trend of indoor cycling studios that practice unsafe, ineffective methods while calling it “Spinning”?

My own view? I think Zumba is probably doing the right thing to protect their brand. (By the way, I do not teach Zumba and never have even taken a class.) Perhaps if MDA and Spinning® had done this a long time ago, it not only would have been warranted but it may have prevented (or at least mitigated somewhat) the current flagrant misuse of their brand name. I wrote a blog post a year and a half ago on why the Spinning® brand is important; if you haven’t read that article, it might interest you.

I’m just curious what you all think of what Zumba is doing, and why you feel that way.



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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Tracy
    November 7, 2013
    8:43 pm #comment-1

    I wish MDA would enforce their licensing requirements. Our facility complies and has invested in Spinner bikes and certification and continuing education for all of our instructors yet there are facilities within ten miles that are not in compliance yet market themselves as Spinning facilities. It does diminish the brand, and really isn’t fair to those of us that are trying to maintain MDA standards.

  2. Tracy
    November 7, 2013
    8:45 pm #comment-2

    I should add, I also teach indoor cycling at another Schwinn certified facility, so it’s not strictly about brand loyalty. 🙂

  3. Margie
    November 9, 2013
    1:02 pm #comment-3

    Yes yes yes!!!!!! It is so frustrating to keep up with your certification, to bring integrity to a gym and a program and then have another local facility advertise their program as spinning, when clearly it is not!!!!! Call them out on this, I say YES publish the list.

  4. Matt F
    November 9, 2013
    6:03 pm #comment-4

    Jennifer, You have three entirely different things going on here. Zumba is suing instructors for teaching without a license, and I assume facilities for offering a program without the license. Good luck to them on both cases. They are going to find that they are expending large sums of money to create a rats nest for themselves. Even if they were to gain judgements against the facilities, they will have likely expended more than they will collect, and all they will do is force them to stop using the Zumba name. So instead of offering Zumba class next M, W, F they’ll over Zola class, Zumba “like” classes. Zumba is essentially an adaptation of latin music. It is there IP (Intellectual Property). They had a fiduciary duty to stop the violation as soon as they became aware of it. Most courts would find it strange that it took them so long to become aware of so many. So…like I said, they’re chasing clouds in the sky and they’ll no doubt make fools of themselves while they do it.

    SPIN is another matter. Spinning is an entire system and method. It is also IP, but it is also style and procedure and so on. Again, and I suspect MDA well aware of this, they could go after all the instructors, but they’d again be chasing clouds with little hope of recovery. They’d do more to damage the brand then anything else, as well Zumba. The difference is though, the nature of the engagement, unlicensed instructors working in unlicensed clubs that had prior knowledge of the nature of the beast. Its a huge can of worms they’d be opening, but at least there is some money at the end of the rainbow sort of speak. The problem is, again, they’ve waited to long, and at this point, although they’ve defended the brand…its much like Kleenex is to tissues. Same story, different matter. Corporations know they have to pick their battles and cost effectiveness is a huge part of that. It would not be cost effective or brand savvy to pursue fitness facilities all around the world, let alone the instructors.

    The last matter you associate with the legal question is that of attempting to regulate the nature of the class or as you so frequently give rise to is, ” Do you think it would potentially have an impact on the trend of indoor cycling studios that practice unsafe, ineffective methods while calling it “Spinning”?

    Talk about a can of worms! That one sentence could bring on more legal proceedings than you might realize. Who said it was a spinning class, the facility, the instructor or the participant? Most places I look might call it “Spin” but more call it “Cycle” or “Bike” on their schedules. I think facilities have gotten pretty wise to the matter. As for the instructors… to hard to prove all around….that they said it, what they did…etc. If you had it all on repeated video maybe…but not likely, and to what end?

    I apologize as I’ve gone on too long here, but Zumba is fighting for its future, and its let its past get away from it. MDA has been wiser in choosing its battles. At the end of the day, its what you do to keep the brand fresh, alive and valid that determines how it grows and expands. MDA for better or worse has done reasonably well at these tasks. Zumba is a product of over exposure, ease of entry (which they touted at first) and poor planning and poorer execution.

    While I understand, and to a very large extend agree with your feelings about some of the antics going on in the world of indoor cycling today….it will self select out in time. I’m not saying its going to all come back to reflect your feelings about Spinning, but the stupid stuff will go away.

    I equate it with..dare I say it…Cross Fit. Its another “trend” that has questionable methods behind it, and it too is under fire in many places. It may always exist, but it will boil down in time like so many other “trends”. In the mean time, it keeps me busy with rehab clients.

    • Jennifer Sage
      November 11, 2013
      5:00 pm #comment-5

      Thanks for your comments Matt. MDA and Spinning® has had a legal department since the beginning, but it’s only been the past handful of years they seem to be digging in deeper, probably because it’s getting worse out there. Spinning® has been around a lot longer than Zumba, and as far as I’ve been told, Zumba didn’t just start going after instructors, they’ve been quite strict about their trademark since the beginning.

      My experience about the Spinning® trademark being illegally used is different than yours. So many facilities, clubs, studios, and instructors use the term incorrectly. It’s especially misused in the media, and even when they are told not to use the term Spinning, they often do anyway, because the risk is low and they attract more readers/viewers/listeners. If you do a search on Youtube, you’ll find a mix of real, sanctioned Spinning videos, along with tons of the dangerous contraindicated stuff. Many of them use the term “Spinning” or “Spin”, and if you were to find their websites, you’ll see them using the term there as well.

      I so hope you are right Matt, that the “stupid stuff will go away”! It’s my heartfelt mission to help clean up indoor cycling, whether it’s Spinning or otherwise! =)

      And I’m with you on the CrossFit. I hope it cleans itself up. It’s the culture that I find dangerous. Like Spinning/indoor cycling, there are many good coaches and many bad ones.

  5. NSpence
    November 9, 2013
    7:45 pm #comment-6

    Kudos to Zumba. If an instructor doesn’t maintain certification, it is clearly a sign that he/she is not interested in further growth and development. These are not the people we want representing our industry.

  6. Andree Mondor
    November 13, 2013
    3:22 pm #comment-7

    I teach indoor cycling and Zumba. I stay licensed to teach Zumba by paying $30 a month, $360 per year. For that I receive choreography and music. There is no additional learning required to stay licensed if you pay the $360.
    Those who do not pay the monthly fee are required to attend a training. The monthly fee for choreography seems less about quality controll and more about money. I appreciate getting the choreography and licensed music, but it doesn’t make me a more knowledgable instructor.

  7. Theresa
    January 24, 2014
    12:31 pm #comment-8

    I wish Spinning would do this! It is so disappointing when you work so heard to become a great SPINNING instructor and then have to break your students of so many bad habits and fight to help them understand why they are so bad!

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