If I come up with a coaching methodology / formula, is it protected under Copyright?

I'm looking to get clarity on the bounds of copyright law as it relates to a coaching methodology and fair use. I understand that "an idea is not copyrightable only the expression of that idea is." For example, if I come up with a coaching formula (y = mx + b) as it relates to personal development. Does my formula fall under the protection of "expression of an idea"? Similarly, what about ancillary terms that I also espouse as part of my coaching method that are fairly unique (ie: "Multi-Track Metrics" or "Minimum Viable Increment") -- are these protected as well? Thanks!


(I'm a small biz attorney who helps people with copyright, trademark, and other IP law, and I'm answering per U.S. law.)

As soon as you take your idea and put it into a tangible format (write it down, create an infographic, record a video), then that writing/infographic/video is automatically protected by copyright law. You can record the copyright on it too, which makes it easier to protect and get damages from other people taking it.

But the formula itself would be probably protected under trade secret law or patent law. Patent law obviously takes a bit more effort, because you have to apply for the patent and get your application examined by the USPTO, which takes years and $$$. Keeping it protected under trade secret law means you have to make an effort to keep it secret (which may not work if you are disclosing it as part of your marketing efforts), such as keeping it confidential and requiring NDAs.

As someone else said, the other terms you use might be protected under trademark law. If a member of the public would use those terms to link your products/services with the source of the product/service (aka, your company), then they could be trademark-able. There are some state law protections for trademarks, and you can also file to register the trademark with the USPTO and get more protection.

Hope that gets your started!

Answered 7 years ago

First, it seems appropriate to point out the differences among the three forms of intellectual property protection at hand:

- Copyrights protect arts such as graphics, music, cinema, choreography, photography, music and more. They are in place to protect one artist from ripping off another artist's work.
- Patents are focused on protecting processes and things that are useful (aka “novel”) to society.
- Trademarks protect symbols or phrases used to brand a product or service you sell.

It seems as though your coaching methodology has the chance to receive copyright and/or patent protection. Copyright law protects original works of authorship so it would require you to put your methodology in a tangible form like a video or book. Your coaching strategy could also be considered novel and thus patentable but that requires much more time and money.

Either way, utilizing the services we offer at will save you the money and time that “doing it yourself” costs you. We at LawTrades help clients connect with attorneys in order to navigate the maze of requirements, as well as select the route that makes the most sense - whether it’s a regular design or provisional patent, or trademark. An experienced attorney can save you lots of money and time, while helping you to add value to your company. LawTrades was established to meet these needs by providing fast and economical solutions. Feel free to message me directly to chat further about any other IP questions that you face.

Answered 5 years ago

I can't speak to the IP issues here but I can tell you that the best "defense" for any form of IP is a strong "offense." In this particular case, what I mean is that the brand by which people are certified or even trained here matters far more than the materials themselves.

The idea that any coaching or personal development business should focus on protecting it's IP as it pertains to methodology is one only likely to be promoted as a good idea by IP lawyers.

Your time and attention is likely far better served by building outside credibility for you and this emerging concept. Client testimonials, other expert opinions, and spreading the message of the effectiveness of your program will result in a more defensible business.

Happy to talk through this in more detail in a call.

Answered 7 years ago

Hey! Great question - and you're confused. :) Lawyer here, BTW, with experience in these areas.

So, copyright only protects expression of your ideas. If you write a book, sing a song, take a photo... you can get a copyright on that.

Your needs are really related to PATENTS and TRADEMARKS. Your coaching formula(e) may be patentable to the extent that it's novel (new) and secret (until you patent it). This is pretty oversimplified, but that's the basics of that.

You may be able to trademark your "ancillary terms" — for example, if you come up with a coaching method called "Roger Mother Fast", you can get a trademark on that as it relates to your business and your usage.

Trademarks, Patents, and Copyrights are confusing. Happy to help you walk through this and it's a part of my practice!

Answered 7 years ago

I have been preaching about intake admission people for drug rehabs not having medical backgrounds when considering a client admission. The industry is loosly regulated and intake people who oftentimes have gone to rehab themselves are motivated by money as they typically are bonused per client they land.

While it is great they got sober they lack a fundemental background in medicine that can and does cause more harm to a client because the goal was to get heads in beds.

I've been writing about several issues that are unique to my background and wouldn't you know ... One of the more shady training centers jumped all over it to offer training. There is NO way these people would have the knowledge I have because they lack the experience. They hit every last talking point if been posting about in forums for addiction professionals.

I do believe they took interlectual property. Doesn't look like I have much to nail them down with I was told.

Answered 6 years ago

You can only protect your coaching methodology if it is in form of a book, CD, or website. Remember that a copyright applies automatically as soon as an idea is expressed in a material form, i.e., written down or recorded in some form, such as a book, CD, or website. It exists in both published and unpublished material as well as in electronic material. Copyright protects all forms of documented expression or works.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 8 months ago

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