Intellectual Property & Patents FAQs

Who can be an inventor?

Any NJIT employee, both full and part-time, including faculty and other academic staff, professional and/or administrative staff, other employees, students (e.g., a graduate assistant) and all individuals who are or become affiliated with NJIT by virtue of their use of “NJIT Resources” can be an inventor on the invention disclosure submitted to NJIT.

Can a student contribute to an invention?

Yes, both undergraduate and graduate students can be an inventors through various ways such as class projects, capstone design projects, funded research or seed grants. For ownership and licensing, same NJIT IP policy applies for student research as for any other NJIT inventor.

Who owns inventions created at NJIT?

NJIT owns intellectual property or inventions if any of these circumstances is true:

  • The intellectual property or invention was created by an employee (faculty, researcher, staff, or student employee) within the scope of employment.

  • It was created on university time, with the use of university facilities or state financial support.

  • It was commissioned by the university pursuant to a signed contract, or it fits within the criterion of the work considered “works made for hire” under the copyright law.

  • It resulted from research supported by funded research, internal seed grants or third-party sponsorship.

Does NJIT own the inventions made by employee or students in their own personal time?

Inventions Made On Personal Time: Inventions or discoveries made by NJIT employees or students entirely on their own personal time and neither within the scope of their employment nor involving any substantial use of “NJIT Resources”, are the property of the inventor. For purposes of this provision, an individual’s “personal time” shall mean time other than that devoted to normal, assigned, or foreseeably anticipated functions in the carrying out of employment and/or academic responsibilities.

Any invention or discovery made while employed by or enrolled at NJIT and of a nature similar and/or related to the employee’s and/or student’s work or field of study at NJIT shall be presumed to have been made with “NJIT’s Resources” as defined herein. Neither use of NJIT’s library facilities nor use of non-confidential information in or authorized for delivery to, the public domain shall constitute substantial use of NJIT resources. All inventions and/or discoveries made on personal time must be disclosed in accordance with this Policy, demonstrating that individual ownership of the invention or discovery is neither in conflict with the employee’s or student’s responsibilities to NJIT nor in conflict with the spirit and/or letter of this Policy.

Can NJIT waive or release the ownership?

  • In Favor of Inventor: NJIT reserves the right, in its discretion, to waive or assign some or all of its ownership rights, in an invention, in favor of the inventor, if NJIT is convinced that the discovery or invention is clearly one that is either non-patentable, not warranting further evaluation as to patentability, not of further academic or commercial interest to NJIT or more advantageously exploited by virtue of the assignment. In such case, NJIT shall retain a limited interest in the invention (e.g. a royalty-free right to use the invention, commonly known as a “shop right”) and may retain a right to receive royalties or other valuable consideration in exchange for such a waiver or assignment.

  • In Favor of Third Parties: NJIT may, in its discretion, assign some or all of its ownership rights in an invention to third parties if NJIT determines that the discovery or invention is one more advantageously exploited by virtue of the assignment. NJIT shall retain a limited “shop right” interest in the invention and may retain the right to receive royalties or other valuable consideration in exchange for such a waiver or assignment. The inventor will retain the right to the compensation set forth in Section V.1 of the NJIT IP policy or such other compensation as mutually agreed upon by NJIT, the inventor and the assignee. Any such assignment, whether full or partial, must be written and signed by the President, the Vice President of Research and Development, or their formally and expressly authorized designees.

  • Conditions: Any grant of waiver or any assignment, whether full or partial must be written and signed by the President, the Vice President of Research and Development, or their formally and expressly authorized designees. Except and only as may be set out in a formal waiver or assignment agreement, once NJIT waives/assigns its ownership interest in the invention or discovery, the inventor/assignee may neither utilize NJIT’s name nor any formal indicia of a relationship between NJIT and the invention, discovery or the attempted commercialization thereof.

Can there be multiple inventors?

NJIT will permit the share of net proceeds allocated to multiple inventors to be divided upon whatever basis the inventors unanimously elect. However, if the inventors cannot reach unanimous agreement regarding allocation, then NJIT shall divide the proceeds among the inventors as it deems appropriate, given its review of comparative contribution, and such decision will be binding on all inventors. There will be a presumption that comparative contribution was equal.

What if the invention was created with someone from another institution or company?

  • Ownership depends upon the employment status of the creators of the invention, their use of university facilities, and any agreement that may be in place between the university and the creator or his or her employer. It is possible for an invention to be jointly owned by NJIT and a third party.

  • If the invention was created under a sponsored research or consulting agreement with a company, NJIT will review the contract to determine ownership and other rights as agreed upon through the executed contract and other relevant agreements. If the technology is jointly owned with another company, NJIT will work with the company to determine the appropriate patenting and licensing strategy.

  • Should the technology be jointly owned with another academic institution, the university will develop appropriate Inter-Institutional Agreement on protecting the invention and licensing.

Can the research results be published or presented at a conference without compromising the patent?

  • An invention disclosure must be filed well in advance before any public presentation or submission for publication. To protect research results of potential commercial value, it is essential that at least a provisional patent is filed before any publication. The international patent laws require filing a patent application before any publication or public disclosure. If any publication or public disclosure is planned, inventors must contact the DIPP office immediately and well in advance to discuss safe options.

  • Where the publication of the results of research, as a scholarly achievement, is delayed in accordance with either this policy’s restriction on publication or a sponsor’s condition as set out in formal agreement and such delay may significantly and imminently affect
    1. the evaluation of a faculty member’s record of accomplishment concerning promotion and/or tenure
    2. the evaluation of a non-faculty member’s record of accomplishment in consideration of continuing employment or
    3. the evaluation of a student’s thesis or dissertation concerning the conferral of a masters or doctoral degree, the evaluating agent(s) of NJIT (e.g. Departmental Promotion & Tenure Committee and each of its members and/or authorized affiliates) shall, operating under a strict confidentiality agreement, receive and evaluate the in-camera publication as to its merit and contribution to the record of the evaluatee in the context of the issue under review. This evaluation will remain under confidentiality agreement with only those having a legal need to know informed while also operating under a strict confidentiality order. Waiver of this process in favor of unrestricted publication may only be authorized by the President.

Copyright FAQs


What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.

How is copyright different from a patent?

Copyright covers works of sufficient creativity and originality. Patents cover inventions, devices, formulas, tools or "anything that has utility." There are design patents and utility patents which offer limited duration property rights relating to patentable inventions. A trademark is a word, phrase or logo, that uniquely identifies a product or service.

How long does copyright last?

In the United States the general rule is the life of the author plus 70 years. If it is an anonymous work or belongs to a corporate author then the term is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation - whichever is shorter. This applies to works created after January 1st, 1978. Works created prior to 1978 have varying terms. Most works created prior to 1923 are in the public domain. For more detail about copyright terms in the United States see the Cornell University Library guide. Works published outside of the United States will be covered by that country’s copyright laws.

What about international copyright law?

Copyright laws differ from country to country. This also means that copyright exceptions enjoyed in the United States are not always internationally enforceable.

Educational Exceptions, Teaching, and Research

How does Fair Use apply to copyrighted works for educational purposes?

Fair use allows certain uses of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder for limited and transformative uses primarily for commentary, criticism, teaching, scholarship, or parody. This is determined by a case-by-case assessment for each use using the "four-factors" analysis criteria: 1. Purpose of the use, 2. Nature of the work, 3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used, and 4. Effect on the market or potential market for the work. Fair use assessments are done weighing all four factors together.

How can I receive permission to use copyrighted works that I want to use if exceptions don’t apply?

Identify and contact the copyright holder(s). This can be a complex and difficult process, especially for older, foreign, or unpublished works. But obtaining permission may be required if the use of the work is not covered by educational exemptions, your publisher requires that you obtain permission, or other contract and license restrictions apply. Permissions may also be obtained from the Copyright Clearance Center. Make permissions requests in writing and keep that documentation.

Can I show a film in class? What about streaming it through Moodle?

If the film was a lawfully acquired copy and integral to the course and its instructional goals then you can show it in the classroom (face-to-face teaching). For distance learning, performing a "reasonable and limited" amount of a film is permitted provided that access is limited to students in the class only for the term of the course. Performing AV works online is also permitted if there is a public performance (PPR) or streaming license for that particular work.

I found an image/document on a website. Am I allowed to use it?

That depends. Investigating the copyright status of content found online is an essential part of due diligence. However it is not always apparent if the work is protected by copyright or what entity retains the copyright. Given how often and easily a single work can be reused and shared online, finding the origin of the work can be challenging. Some works may also have multiple copyright holders. Look for the website’s terms and conditions or other types of copyright statements such as Creative Commons licenses to help determine permitted uses.

I’m citing my sources, does this protect me from copyright infringement?

No. Copyright and plagiarism are two separate but related concepts. Attribution does not protect you against copyright infringement or liability.

Are algorithms protected by copyright?

No. "Copyright law does not protect ideas, methods, or systems. Copyright protection is therefore not available for ideas or procedures for doing, making, or building things; scientific or technical methods or discoveries; business operations or procedures; mathematical principles; formulas or algorithms; or any other concept, process, or method of operation." However, some of these may qualify for other types of intellectual property protections.

What about my datasets, mathematical formulas, or models?

Data as a representation of fact is not generally protected. However, data may be protected if: 1. The data constitutes a copyrighted work (literary work, chart, graph, audiovisual work, sound recording, etc.) or 2. The data is a compilation of data elements such as a database. Databases can have some copyright protection if creative decisions were made regarding how the elements are organized and interrelated. Licensing and contract law often govern how data is reused.

For Creators or Authors

How do I copyright my work?

As soon as a work is "fixed" in a tangible medium of expression and it is sufficiently creative and original, it is automatically protected by copyright. Copyright registration is not required but there are benefits to formally registering your work. Copyright registration can be done through the U.S. Copyright Office.

If my publication agreement gives the copyright to the publisher, can I still use my work for presentations, teaching, or making it available online?

That depends. Each publisher and publishing agreement outlines what kind of uses are permitted and what rights the author retains. You can check publisher rights and access policies at SHERPA/RoMEO, an online service that aggregates publisher access and self-archiving policies.

What author rights can I retain when publishing a work?

Some rights to think about keeping when publishing your work are the right to make derivative works, the right to include all or part of the work in a future thesis, dissertation, or other scholarly publication, or the right to archive or preserve the work as part of an institutional repository or your own website. Consider using the SPARC Author Addendum as a legal instrument that modifies the publisher’s agreement and allows you to keep key rights to your articles.

If I’m the co-author of a published work, am I able to reuse portions of this work in other publications?

That depends. Since the work is published and most likely some if not all of your copyrights are now contratually granted to the publisher, it is likely that you would require permission. It might also be the case that you would need to ask permission of your co-authors since collaborating on a single work creates a joint work, collective work, or compilation.

My book is out of print. Is it still protected by copyright?

Probably. Works published in the United States remain protected by copyright until 70 years after the death of the author, even out-of-print works.

What is a "work made for hire" ?

A work made for hire is any work created during or within the scope of a person’s employment. A work for hire can also be a work specially ordered or commissioned for use by the employer. To learn more, see NJIT’s policy on copyright.

I’m completing my thesis/dissertation. Do I need permission to use copyrighted material in my paper?

That depends. If you are using photos, text excerpts, scientific drawings or diagrams, etc. you may need the author’s permission to include them if fair use exceptions don’t apply. You may also need permission if you are including archival materials for which you accepted certain terms of use. Depending on how you are depositing or publishing your thesis or dissertation, you may also be asked to secure permission for the use of copyrighted materials prior to publication. For more information on thinking through the process, see the library’s guide on Copyright and Your Thesis or Dissertation.

For legal expertise and guidance related to copyright, please contact:

Sanjiv M. Chokshi, Esq.
Assistant General Counsel for Patents and Intellectual Property

For more information about educational exceptions, fair use analysis, copyright and your thesis/dissertation, and general copyright questions, please contact:

Danielle Reay
Architecture, Art & Design Library Specialist