Making an app based on someone else's there a legal issue?
April 8, 2019 5:56 PM   Subscribe

A time tracking app called Desktime apparently did some research that showed 52 minutes of work followed by 17 minutes of rest was optimally productive for the people they studied. Would it possible to make an app/software that incorporates a timer based on this research or would I run into legal issues?

I asked a similar question a while ago about where I could make a Pomodoro app and was told Pomodoro was copyrighted, which was good to know. And that techniques can also be sometimes patented. (Thanks askmefi!)

So in this case, it's not a technique I'm using, but a timer that would try and make use of this data (52 minutes of work followed by a 17 minute break.) And just for clarification, there would be other features in the timer as well (a few 52/17 min timers already exist.)


- Am I able to do this without running into legal issues?
- For posterity's sake, Is "research" a thing that is legally protected? As a made-up example, If someone publicizes a study that says only 4 hours out of 24 hours are productive, am I allowed to make an app called 4/24?
posted by neeta to Law & Government (2 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
i dunno anything about law, but if you write a program, those numbers have to come from somewhere. why not let the user type them in? then you can use the magical 52 and 17 numbers as defaults, and someone else could use their own magical numbers (i like prime numbers so i would use 53 and 13)
posted by =d.b= at 6:19 PM on April 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

There are three main categories of "intellectual property": trademarks, copyright, and patents.

Trademarks are distinctive names of products. I suspect "Pomodoro" in reference to productivity is trademarked. You would have to check if the name "4/24" is used anywhere in a trademarked way.

Copyright covers the copying of works. You aren't copying the text of the paper, so this wouldn't apply. I also don't think it's correct to say "Pomodoro was copyrighted", unless you're talking about the app software itself.

Patents cover inventions. The government gives patents for a term of years to protect people who invent new things from having their things reused in other products without them getting a cut. Patent law is quite complicated, but you can't patent scientific discoveries, only inventions. If a study shows that this 4 out of 24 thing is a fact about the world, it's not patentable.
posted by demiurge at 6:24 PM on April 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

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