Can I use the Time Management Matrix in my software?
July 29, 2009 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Can I use the "Time Management Matrix" in a commercial software product without any legal repercussions?

(If you're not familiar with the Time Management Matrix, you can find a good primer here.)

My understanding is that the Matrix was popularized by Stephen Covey's book First Things First, and was later featured in some of his other books. Since then it has been widely used in motivational and leadership books and seminars. There are dozens of articles and pages about it online. It very likely existed in other forms, at least in concept, before Covey wrote about it.

I am interested in including a visual representation, description, and interactive version of this Matrix in a piece of commercial software I am writing. Without giving away too much of the application's functionality, essentially a user will be able to click one of the quadrants of the Matrix to assign a task to it, view a list of tasks sorted by quadrant, etc. The software would also include a brief description of the Matrix and its quadrants, with no direct quotations from Covey's book or any other sources. In fact, I don't plan on mentioning Covey at all (unless I must for attribution) in order to avoid any implications of endorsement.

Would I run into any legal issues if I do this? I can't find any solid evidence on whether Covey invented the concept or the term, so that's the first thing I need to find out. After that, I need to know what I can do if he does have some claim of ownership to it.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (2 answers total)
It's attributed to Eisenhower as well, if that helps, as the "Eisenhower method"
posted by b33j at 3:48 PM on July 29, 2009

IANAL, but I think that Covey would have a stronger claim of ownership over the name than the idea. Consequently, I would probably avoid calling it "the time management matrix" within the software, but I think that arranging tasks in a quadrat is unlikely to constitute infringement of his intellectual property.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 7:30 AM on July 30, 2009

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