Are productivity techniques copyrighted or patented?
February 7, 2019 7:15 PM   Subscribe

There are tons of "hacks" to increase your productivity out on the web. If, say, you made an app employing any of these techniques (or a video showing how to use them), are you infringing on a copyright? Do you need permission to use these from the creator if your product earns sales or any money from these techniques?

Here are examples of what I'm mean:

1) the pomodoro technique, where the originator is known.

2) the 1-3-5 rule for todo lists, where the originator is unknown AFAIK

I live in the U.S.

I could go meet with a lawyer over this, but hoping this is a simple enough yes/no type question someone might know the answer to.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
posted by neeta to Law & Government (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
you can't copyright ideas, only original works, fixed in a tangible medium of expression (like photo, words, recording, painting, etc.). If you use someone's technique to create something, that doesn't infringe on their copyright. For example, if I'm a painter, and I read a book about how to effectively use light and shadows, and use those techniques to create my own painting, that is not copyright infringement (unless I'm literally copying the images from a book).
posted by skewed at 7:46 PM on February 7, 2019

Thanks, skewed. To clarify, I'm not using the techniques to build something, I'd be building or writing something that will either describe or incorporate the techniques. For example, a todo app that will use the 1-3-5 technique. Or to use another example, a book that discusses 50 different productivity techniques.
posted by neeta at 7:49 PM on February 7, 2019

The Pomodoro technique appears to be trademarked, which limits what you can do with it while using the name. In general I would think you'd want to be careful around trademarked ones and those would be "see a lawyer" territory. It's true that they can't protect the idea itself but from what I've read some of the rules that courts use to decide if you are just using the "idea" and not legitimately protected output can be pretty arcane.
posted by mark k at 8:45 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

In this context, if you copy someone else's written materials or diagrams, you may be infringing their copyright. Take your project to a lawyer.

If they have a patent, take the patent to a lawyer for advice. The patent may or may not be valid. It may or may not cover what you're doing, or what you're trying to induce others to do.

The word "productivity" in your question doesn't matter. A procedure for doing things may be patentable.

Whether you're making money doesn't matter.

posted by JimN2TAW at 8:05 AM on February 8, 2019

I'd mention that The International Organization for Standardization (ISO - how's that for standardization - ha) does issue standards for techniques, which do have IP attached to them, though that in itself may not prevent monetization specifically - it will depend on the standard and how it is issued.
posted by rich at 8:07 AM on February 8, 2019

« Older It's like my own personal climate change   |   We cannot manage to clean our cat's ears Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.