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Breaking the Law in 20 Words (Or Less)

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Every business wants to protect its assets, and instructions might represent trade secrets. But could only twenty words be something that no one can legally share?

A classic op-ed piece in the New York Times by Michael Crichton states a scientific claim which happens to be copyrighted. Here’s a hint: it’s an expansion on the idea that vitamins are good for you.

Unlike similar statements of fact, such as “the earth revolves around the sun”, this sentence of twenty words is the subject of courtroom controversy. It can’t be repeated, or even considered, without legal ramifications. According to Crichton:

A corporation has patented that fact, and demands a royalty for its use. Anyone who makes the fact public and encourages doctors to test for the condition and treat it can be sued for royalty fees. Any doctor who reads a patient’s test results and even thinks of vitamin deficiency infringes the patent. A federal circuit court held that mere thinking violates the patent.

Locks for your business, patents and copyrights

© Flickr user rpongsaj

Obviously a “trade secret” is a time-honored tradition in business. But no matter the age or the size of the company, there’s more to a brand then a formula that they keep under wraps. The recipe for Coca-Cola is confidential, but the value of that organization is mostly tied up in sales relationships, distribution systems, employee knowledge, and business processes. The chemical symbols are important, but aren’t much in the grand scheme of the enterprise.

No business should rely on a revenue model based on keeping small amounts of information secret. Even organizations with vast libraries of content—like record labels, production companies and software developers—should differentiate themselves on the quality of their service, not the control of information. If your business includes “trade secrets” as a barrier to your competition, contact the business improvement experts at AccelaWork today to evaluate how to transform your business process.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


This is a headline for an anti-announcement.
@WayneK59 @charlesharriso5 That would be the same job, politician. - 43 mins ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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