There is a personal organization program that used to be called “MonkeyGTD”. I always thought that was a good name because “GTD” has become recognized as an acronym for “Getting Things Done” and “MonkeyGTD” is a program for helping you do that. Now I’m going to be fair and point out that in 2001 a certain “David Allen” wrote a book called “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” and as far as I know, he is the first one to use the term “Getting Things Done” as a specific reference to a methodology in a publication. So I have no problem giving credit to Allen for coining the term. But last night I noticed that Simon Baird, the author of “MonkeyGTD” was at some point informed by David Allen’s company that he couldn’t use the three-letter combination “GTD” in the name for his product because Allen’s company registered ownership of the acronym. So Baird had to come up with a new name, eventually deciding on the much less interesting name, mGSD. Now even though Baird complied with out complaint, after all the law is the law, from a social perspective, I still have a bone to pick with the way Allen is claiming ownership of a three-letter acronym and with the laws that allow it.
I can understand the registered trademark on a name for an entity like IBM™ but “GTD” isn’t the name of Allen’s company, it’s an acronym for a particular methodology he came up with for organizing your stuff (which isn’t exactly rocket science folks). More to the point, Baird wasn’t calling his product “GTD”… the acronym was only part of a larger word and I think this is the critical thing to point out. There are only 17,576 possible three-letter combinations using our alphabet – what happens if we let people like Allen gradually buy up the ownership of each of these combinations? How would anyone come up ANY name for a ANYTHING if they can’t even be allowed as a part of a name? I understand that sometimes we want to label our ideas especially if they form the basis of something you take to the market, but I think we also need to safeguard our language and the freedom for people to use it.
I’ll give credit to Allen for developing and publishing the GTD® methodology, even though he didn’t invent the idea of using productivity tools, or paper, or any component of his methodology and I’m certain he wasn’t the first one to actually use them the way he prescribes, but I’ll give him due credit for the efforts it took to actually present them in a book. But I think his ownership of a three-letter acronym that he uses to describe what I consider to be a common sense methodology and telling people like Baird that he can’t even use it as a part of a name is just plain ridiculous and it’s a clear example of how the tyranny of ownership subtracts from the freedom of our language.