Black-Belt licensing wizardry
June 26, 2009 4:18 AM   Subscribe

Is there any restrictions on advertising consulting services using the term "six sigma". Do I have to be certified or pay licensing fees before offering consulting services on the topic?

I know of the various institutions offering classes but don't know if going through any of these is cumpolsory before starting to use "six sigma" in advertising one's product to others.

YANML but you might know how this industry is set up. I am in Germany but information must not be limited to my home country.
posted by mathiu to Work & Money (2 answers total)
I am a business consultant (creative team-building and management) who runs into this sometimes.

You are free to use the term "six sigma" all you like. It was invented by a Motorola manager, but it's grown wild outside those walls and is under nobody's effective control. So if you're using the DMAIC and DMADV principles, you're using "six sigma" systems, whether you call them that or not. If you adapt or modify them, it's a good idea to explain what you're changing and why, because you will confuse people, but there are no Six Sigma Ninja Warrior Lawyers who will sue you for that. So much of it is common sense that using the term "six sigma" is just shorthand that saves a lot of explaining.

You say you're in Germany, so you may not be aware: when it's applied broadly, outside the quality of manufacturing sphere that it was meant for, it is a frequent subject of ridicule.
posted by rokusan at 4:44 AM on June 26, 2009

I think you should be careful with the word "Six Sigma" if you want to use it in advertising or as part of your company name. IANAL but a quick search of the USPTO database turns up several live trademarks related to the term "Six Sigma" in various lines of business. Several of them are owned by the "Six Sigma Ranch," which apparently uses both the literal name "Six Sigma" and also the numeral six followed by the sigma character.

Lots of other people have trademarks on '6 Sigma' and variations thereof.

I don't see why this would stop you from mentioning 'six sigma' as something you're familiar with or as a service you offer, but if you were going to call yourself "Six Sigma Inc." or "Six Sigma Consulting" or describe yourselves as "the Six Sigma Experts" or something similar, it's a very crowded field.

As long as you only use it in the generic sense, to refer to the general methodology developed by Motorola as it's broadly understood within the process-improvement industry, I can't see how you'd run into that much trouble. You just want to be careful that you don't throw it around and inadvertently step on somebody's trademark, and there do seem to be a lot of them.

It's not helped by the high degree of confusion that exists around six sigma; I think a lot of people believe that there's an "official" six sigma somewhere, handing out belts and certifications and everything else. Basically, people don't understand that 'six sigma' is not Six Sigma, and that far from being some single certification authority somewhere (as there is for CMM certification), there's a whole cottage industry of people offering "six sigma" training and "belts."

Also, somewhat unrelatedly, I'd think hard about mentioning six sigma at all, unless it's really a core focus of yours. At least among some of my clients (I do business process consulting professionally), six sigma seems to be seen as a waning, overhyped fad. I think this was a direct result of it being pushed dogmatically into areas of business far beyond manufacturing, where it really wasn't all that useful and where other methodologies make more sense.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:29 AM on June 26, 2009

« Older Making a book out of AskMeFi?   |   Changing SSRIs - how long will this last? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.