Frequently Asked Questions
Litigation and Risk Management Practice Group
- General Information: Lawsuits, Subpoenas, Jury Duty
- Maintaining Legally Protected Information
- Participating in Legal Proceedings
- Managing Agreements with Non-Caltech Entities
Education and Workforce Practice Group
Research and Technology Practice Group
- Intellectual Property
- Facilities Use
- Public Relations / Outreach
- Export Control / Import
- Research and Research Compliance
- Technology Transfer
- Information Technology
- Maintaing a Safe Environment
Business Affairs Practice Group
- Business Affairs (General)
- Finance, Tax, and Investment
- Corporate Governance
- JPL Prime Contract
Q: What are summons and complaints?
The summons and complaints are documents served by a plaintiff on an individual or entity letting that individual or entity know that he, she, or it is being sued. The complaint contains the names of the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s), as well as the specific allegations, legal claims, and money damages sought against the defendant(s). Once served with a summons and complaint, the defendant must respond to the complaint within a set period of time (usually 20 days in federal court and 30 days in state court).
Q: What is a subpoena?
A subpoena is a document directing an individual or an entity to provide testimony or documents in a pending lawsuit. The recipient of a subpoena is legally required to comply with the subpoena, unless a court orders otherwise.
Q: What do I do if I get a letter or phone call from a non-Caltech attorney seeking information or telling me about a lawsuit or subpoena against Caltech?
First, you should ask the attorney whom he or she represents. If the attorney is not a Caltech attorney, you should not provide any information to the attorney before contacting Caltech's Office of the General Counsel (OGC). OGC is the legal representative for Caltech, including its division JPL. Please immediately contact one of the Counsel Contacts if you get a written communication or phone call from an attorney seeking any kind of information, including how to "serve" legal documents at Campus or JPL, or asserting any kind of legal claim against either Caltech or its division JPL.
Q: What do I do if I am asked to "accept service" of any legal document (e.g., summons and complaint, subpoena) on behalf of Caltech or its division JPL (e.g., being asked to come to the Visitors' Center at JPL to accept service)?
You should refuse to accept the documents, and you should tell the process server to contact the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) at (626) 395-3241 or (818) 354-0999. If you receive a summons or subpoena in the mail addressing Caltech or its division JPL, or addressing you and containing allegations based on actions you have taken within the scope of your professional duties as a Caltech employee, or if you have already accepted a legal document from a process server, please contact OGC immediately. Note that any delay in responding to these documents can result in serious legal consequences for Caltech.
Q: To whom can I direct a process server?
You should direct any inquires about subpoenas, summons and complaints, or other legal documents to the Office of General Counsel, at (626) 395-3241 or (818) 354-0999.
Q: I have been called for jury duty and it will interfere with a big project I'm working on. What should I do?
You must comply with the jury summons. You can review your summons to see if you meet any of the criteria for being excused from jury service, or postponing jury service, and follow the procedures outlined in your summons. Being a student does not automatically exempt you from jury service, though you may meet the criteria to be excused. You should also consult Caltech's jury service policies for further information:
Q: Will the Office of the General Counsel help me with personal legal questions?
The Office of the General Counsel's role is to provide legal services to Caltech and we cannot provide personal legal advice to individuals. We do, however, maintain a list of local attorneys practicing in different areas which is available to members of the Caltech community through our office. This list is provided as a convenience only and does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement of the attorneys on this list.
Q: I have received a Hold Order. What is a Hold Order and what do I need to do?
The law requires Caltech to ensure that records of all types which might relate to a certain issue or legal claim are carefully protected from destruction. A Hold Order is a very important directive from the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) which instructs you to retain all records (e.g., emails, word documents, power point presentations, data, recorded matter) related to whatever issue is named in the Hold Order. When you receive a Hold Order, you should read it carefully, and ensure that you comply with its specific requirements. If you have any questions about the Hold Order, you should contact the attorney from OGC identified in the Hold Order. Failures by employees to comply with Hold Orders can result in very serious legal consequences to Caltech.
Q: Does my receipt of a Hold Order mean that I am in trouble? Or does it mean I will have to testify?
You have received the Hold Order because the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) anticipates that based on your professional duties and relationships, you may have records related to the matter named in the Hold Order and must retain them. If you were more directly involved in a legal matter (e.g., as a named or potential defendant), you would be advised directly by OGC, not through a Hold Order. Your receipt of the Hold Order does not necessarily mean that you will become involved in a lawsuit or asked to provide testimony. The matter mentioned in the Hold Order may never rise to a legal proceeding requiring testimony, or your professional involvement in the issue may entail only your providing documents to OGC and/or being interviewed by OGC for further information. See FAQs "Participating in Investigations or Legal Proceedings."
Q: What is the attorney-client privilege? What does it mean when a Caltech attorney tells me that our communications are subject to the attorney-client privilege and should be kept confidential?
The attorney-client privilege is legal right to keep confidential certain communications, written or oral, between a client and his or her attorney. Communications include phone or in-person conversations, email exchanges, and any other exchanges of information. The United States Supreme Court has stated that by assuring confidentiality the privilege encourages clients to provide information fully and frankly to their attorneys, which enables the attorneys to better understand the claims and defenses, devise suitable legal strategies, provide candid and competent advice, and prepare fully for legal proceedings.
In the context of organizations such as Caltech, the attorney-client privilege generally applies to communications between Caltech attorneys and Caltech employees with respect to discussions concerning Caltech business. The privilege requires that neither the client nor the attorney reveals the content of their communications to any other person or entity other than a Caltech attorney. Such non-disclosure may also be required by other Caltech policies or privacy laws, depending on the matter discussed.
Therefore, your communications with a Caltech attorney must not be disclosed, shown, forwarded, or otherwise shared with other employees, family members, or organizations. If you are uncertain whether a certain communication with a Caltech attorney is privileged and must be kept confidential, please assume that it must be kept confidential and contact the attorney with whom you had the communication.
Q: Can I share with another Caltech employee information or advice I have received from a Caltech attorney? Isn't the email still privileged?
No. Communications between employees are not subject to the attorney-client privilege. Only communications between a Caltech attorney and Caltech employees are subject to the attorney-client privilege. If you believe that another employee needs to provide or receive certain information to or from a Caltech attorney, please notify the Caltech attorney with whom you have communicated. You should not share privileged communications with anyone other than a Caltech attorney.
Q: I have received an email from an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel with advice on how to handle a situation? Can I forward the email on to non-Caltech entities that should know what we are going to do?
No. Emails and other communications from the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) to Caltech employees are attorney-client privileged, which means that you should not forward or otherwise share them with anyone other than a Caltech attorney. If you need help crafting an email to an outside entity to encompass advice you have received from OGC, talk to the attorney with whom you are working.
Q: I have a number of documents and emails that I have received or otherwise exchanged with the Office of the General Counsel; do I have to maintain them in any particular manner?
Since such emails and other documents are subject to the attorney-client privilege, you may not share them with anyone other than a Caltech attorney. It is important, too, to guard against accidental sharing of attorney-client privileged materials, as judges may find that the privilege has been waived even if the disclosure was accidental. Therefore, you should segregate privileged materials from your regular files and place them in an electronic and paper folders entitled "Attorney-Client Communications." Please maintain these folders securely.
Q: I have been requested to meet with an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel. Why?
Usually, a Caltech attorney requests a meeting with a Caltech employee because it is thought that the employee may be able to provide information and/or documents, generated or obtained in the scope of their professional duties, concerning an investigation, potential legal claim or defense, or other issue to be resolved. You do not need to be nervous about this! If you would like to reassure yourself before the meeting, please call the Caltech attorney with whom you are meeting for further information as to the purpose and nature of your meeting. You will be instructed during the meeting that the communications are subject to the attorney-client privilege and must be kept confidential. See FAQs "Maintaining Legally Protected Information."
Q: I have been requested by the Office of the General Counsel to provide certain documents to them. Why?
A Caltech attorney may ask you to provide documents generated or obtained in the scope of your professional duties, because such documents provide information relevant to an investigation, potential legal claim or defense, or other issue to be resolved. Such documents may even be required by law to be turned over the other side in a legal proceeding. The Caltech attorney will provide you with specificity as to which documents to provide as well as some information as to why you are being asked to provide them. If you have any questions or concerns, please discuss them with the Caltech attorney requesting the documents.
Q: I have received a visit from an FBI agent (or other state or federal investigator). What do I do?
First, be polite. Ask to examine the agent's identification and credentials to ensure that they are genuine. Write down the agent's name and phone number and make a copy of his/her badge or card and find out why he or she is there. Then, ask the agent to wait while you contact the Office of General Counsel (OGC). OGC will likely send a representative to accompany the agent while he or she is on campus. You should refrain from answering questions until you have spoken with OGC. You have a right to decline to speak with an agent at all, or to wait until a Caltech representative is with you. If the agent refuses to wait, accompany the agent and take notes of what he or she asks and does. If the agent requests to take anything from the premises, make copies as possible and make a list of the other items.
Q: A Caltech attorney has told me that I might be deposed in a lawsuit. What does this mean?
When a lawsuit is instituted, the parties have the right to conduct a formal investigation -called "discovery"-to find out more about the facts of the case. A deposition is one method of discovery where an attorney asks questions of an individual (i.e., deposes the individual) which he or she must answer under oath, as if at trial. The purpose of a deposition is to find out what the individual knows and to preserve that individual's testimony for use during discovery proceedings and at any trial that may take place. Where Caltech is a party to a legal proceeding, an opposing party may seek to depose a Caltech employee believed to have pertinent information. That employee is legally obligated to appear for the deposition and will be fully prepared and represented by Caltech attorneys. Over the years, numerous Caltech employees have been deposed-a deposition is not a cause for concern. Caltech attorneys will be there with you throughout the preparation process and at the deposition itself.
Q: Why do we have outside attorneys? Is it ok for me to speak with them?
Caltech sometimes retains outside attorneys who have expertise in specific legal subject matters to represent it in litigation. An attorney from the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) will coordinate any contacts you have with outside attorneys who represent Caltech. If you are unsure whether an outside attorney represents Caltech or another party, please confirm with OGC before speaking with the attorney. Like your communications with attorneys at OGC, your communications with outside Caltech attorneys are subject to the attorney-client privilege. Therefore, you should speak fully and accurately to outside Caltech attorneys if asked to provide information and you should not share those communications with anyone other than a Caltech attorney. See FAQs "Maintaining Legally Protected Information."
Q: I have been sued. Will Caltech represent me?
If you have been served with legal documents indicating that you are a defendant in a lawsuit (Summons and Complaint), and Caltech or its division JPL is also named as a defendant and/or the allegations in the Complaint touch on actions you took within your professional duties as a Caltech employee, please contact the Office of the General Counsel immediately to discuss the matter. As a general rule, if you have been sued based on actions you took within the scope of your professional duties, in compliance with Caltech policies, you will be represented by Caltech attorneys, at Caltech's expense. If, however, you are being sued over personal matters, Caltech attorneys will not represent you.
Q: I work with an employee who has sued Caltech. What should I do?
You may be the manager, subordinate, or colleague of an employee who has sued Caltech. Depending on your professional relationship with the employee, you may be contacted by the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) for further information or instructions. The general rule is that you should not discuss the lawsuit with the suing employee or any other employee, as this can be interpreted by that employee as intimidation or retaliation for bringing the lawsuit, which are strictly prohibited by campus and JPL policies and the law. Furthermore, when you gather or share information about a lawsuit with the suing employee or other employees, you make yourself a potential witness in the matter. Remember, as you are not an attorney, your communications with other employees may be discoverable by the other side in legal proceedings. See FAQs "Maintaining Legally Protected Information."
If you are the manager of the employee who is suing Caltech, you should continue managing his or her performance. Human Resources will work closely with you and OGC to assist you in addressing issues relating to performance, work place behavior, and other actions you wish to take related to the employee.
Q: I am a manager and one of my subordinates has threatened to sue Caltech. What should I do?
Please immediately contact one of the Attorney Contacts listed above to provide information concerning the origin of the employee's negative feelings. It is important that you do not discuss the threat with the employee or his or her colleagues or take any other action with respect to the employee which, can be interpreted as an attempt to influence the employee in his or her decision to sue.
Q: I am a manager. Can my subordinates or colleagues sue me?
Although uncommon, an employee may sue his or her individual manager(s) in addition to Caltech. This usually occurs in the context of claims of discrimination, harassment, or wrongful termination. This is why it is important for managers to both understand and comply with the pertinent policies, as well as to document fully and truthfully an employee's performance problems, if any; as such, information can be important in defending against disputed claims. If the employee's allegations arise from workplace conduct and a manager has acted within the scope of his or her professional duties and consistent with Caltech policies, the manager will be defended by Caltech attorneys, at Caltech's expense.
Q. I am concerned that an Institute employee may be committing an ethics violation, fraud, or an illegal activity. What should I do?
Caltech takes issues like this very seriously. You should report this to the Office of General Counsel, or, at JPL, to the Ethics Office.
Q: A contractor, subcontractor, or other entity or person with whom Caltech does business has threatened to sue us. What should I do?
In the event that the matter involves a Caltech campus purchase order or contract, please contact the Caltech Purchasing hotline at (626) 395-8900. In the event that the matter involves a JPL purchase order or subcontract contact the assigned JPL subcontract manager. See http://acquisition.jpl.nasa.gov/organization.htm. Threats regarding any other contractual relationship should be directed to the Office of the General Counsel.
Q: I do not believe a contractor, subcontractor, or other entity or person with which Caltech does business is holding up their end of the bargain in some way. What should I do?
In the event that the matter involves a Caltech campus purchase order or contract, please contact the Caltech Purchasing hotline at (626) 395-8900. In the event that the matter involves a JPL purchase order or subcontract, please contact the assigned JPL subcontract manager. See http://acquisition.jpl.nasa.gov/organization.htm. Problems regarding any other contractual relationship should be directed to the Office of the General Counsel.
Q. Will the Office of General Counsel help me with personal legal questions?
The Office of General Counsel's role is to provide legal services to the Institute and we cannot provide personal legal advice to individuals. We do however maintain a list of local attorneys practicing in different areas, which is available to members of the Caltech community through our office. This list is provided as a convenience only and does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement of the attorneys on this list.
Q. I have a complaint concerning my employment. What do I do?
Staff employees have different options available for the handling of work related complaints. Employee Relations is available to provide advice and training to employees and managers to ensure a fair and productive work environment. Information about these resources for Campus employees is available here and for JPL employees here. Caltech also has a Staff Problem Resolution Policy and Grievance Process available for Campus employees. JPL's Problem Resolution and Grievance Procedure is available through JPL Rules. If the complaint involves an allegation of unlawful harassment, please refer to the Campus Unlawful Harassment Policy and Guidelines. The JPL Unlawful Harassment policy may be accessed through JPL Rules.
Complaint involving allegations of discrimination should be reported in accordance with the respective Nondiscrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity Policies for Campus and through JPL Rules for JPL employees. Some complaints may be appropriate for reporting to Caltech's Compliance and JPL's Ethics Hotlines.
Other support for employees dealing with work related concerns is available through the Caltech Staff and Faculty Consultation Center and the Caltech Center for Diversity for Campus employees and the JPL Employee Assistance Program for JPL employees.
For policies and procedures relevant to Faculty concerns please consult the Faculty Handbook.
Q. What does it mean to be an affirmative action employer?
An affirmative action employer commits to actively recruit and include for employment, members of underrepresented minority groups, women, disabled, and other eligible veterans and otherwise qualified persons with disabilities. Caltech's Nondiscrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity Policy which states this commitment can be found here.
Q. What do I do if I have a disability that I think is affecting my ability to do my job? Will Caltech accommodate me?
At Caltech, reasonable accommodations for qualified staff employees, faculty or students with disabilities are handled through three campus offices: Human Resources for employees, the Provost's Office for faculty, and the Associate Dean of Students for undergraduate and graduate students. At JPL, Human Resources is responsible for responding to accommodation requests.
Caltech provides reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities if doing so does not pose an undue hardship. Each request for reasonable accommodation is assessed on a case-by-case basis utilizing an interactive process between the staff employee, faculty member, or student and the offices mentioned above. Caltech's policy, Accommodations for Disabilities can be found here.
JPL's policy is found in JPL Rules.
Q. Where do I find the basic policies and procedures governing students at Caltech?
Policies and procedures governing students primarily are found at the Student Affairs website, which includes the following topics: use of alcohol at student events, substance abuse, grievances, hazing, sexual assault, unlawful harassment, missing student policy, accommodations for disabilities, electronic information resources, non-discrimination, and the Housing Resident Guide. Additional resources include:
Students also may wish to contact the undergraduate Dean or the Dean of Graduate Studies.
Q. How does Caltech protect the privacy of my student records?
A federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, known as FERPA, and Caltech policy afford students certain rights as well as establish limitations with respect to student records. Some of these rights and limitations include:
- Educational records may be disclosed without the consent of a student to Institute officials with legitimate educational interests in them, or if another exception applies.
- A student has a right to access and review his or her records.
- Educational records are confidential (except directory information in most cases) and may not be disclosed unless a student consents or a request fits an exception.
- Directory information, such as a student's name, address, ID photograph, year in school, and major field of study, may be made available to requestors at Caltech's discretion, unless a student has requested in writing that this information be withheld.
More complete information is found in the printed and on-line versions of Caltech's Catalog under Access to Student Records.
Q. My Caltech house or club wishes to have an event away from the Caltech campus. Should house or club members sign any type of release before participating in this event?
Yes. If students are participating in house or club activities, including those away from the Caltech campus, they should sign a Consent, Release, and Assumption of Risk form. Students should contact the Senior Director for Student Life to obtain this form for a particular event.
Q. May I use my work telephone or email to communicate personal matters?
Incidental use of Caltech telephones and email is permitted consistent with Caltech policy. For JPL employees see JPL Rules for information on use of electronic resources and communications resources and for information on personal use of telephones.
Q. May I accept a gift from someone Caltech does business with?
Caltech employees are prohibited from offering or giving gratuities to any employee of the government with the intention of obtaining favorable treatment under a government contract or grant. The government may infer the intent to obtain favorable treatment when a gratuity is offered, so such situations should be avoided even when the motivation is pure.
Caltech employees must not solicit or accept from any interested party any gratuity or other thing of value for yourself or your family, friends, and associates when such behavior could affect, or reasonably be interpreted by others as affecting, your impartiality as a representative of the Institute. You should be particularly careful not to place yourself in the position of accepting a gratuity when you are involved in any phase of procurement.
Q. Can I engage in outside employment while an employee of the Institute?
Consistent with the Institute's conflict of interest policy, employees are permitted to engage in outside employment, consulting, or business activities provided that no actual or potential conflict of interest or appearance of such conflict exists and that the activity does not adversely affect their ability to perform their jobs. For further information regarding approval of and restrictions on outside employment, Campus employees should refer to Personnel Memorandum 9-3 and JPL employees should consult JPL Rules.
Q. Is it permissible to ask a job applicant if he/she is a US citizen?
While it is not permissible to ask job applicants whether they are U.S. citizens, you may inquire whether they have authorization to work in the United States.
Q. What immigration options are available for foreign nationals working and studying at Caltech?
F,J, E-3, H, O, and TN are the nonimmigrant statuses that are most frequently used for foreign nationals studying and working at Caltech. The International Offices (International Scholar Services and International Student Programs on campus and the JPL International Office) work closely with each foreign national to insure that the individual has an appropriate nonimmigrant status. Additional information about each visa type is available here.
Additional FAQ's for Immigration are available on the Caltech International Scholar's website.
Q: What is Intellectual Property (IP)?
Intellectual property refers to intangible rights protecting creations resulting from intellectual efforts. IP can protect inventions, designs, music, software, literary works, and more. Rights to IP generally are provided by patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. These rights may be commercially valuable when they are used to allow or restrict others from using one’s intellectual property.
Q:What do I do if I want to patent an invention I made as part of my job?
At campus, contact the Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships. At JPL, go the online New Technology Report (NTR) system to enter the relevant information about the invention.
Q: What do I do if I made an invention on my own time?
Each Caltech employee has signed a Patent and Copyright employment agreement that details the scope of inventions to which Caltech takes ownership as allowed by state law. Generally, an invention that was made entirely on an employee’s own time without use of Caltech resources, and which does not relate to Caltech’s activities, may be owned by the employee. For more details, contact the OGC Research & Technology Group at campus, or the Ethics Office at JPL.
Q: What do I do if a company is infringing my patent?
If you believe anyone is infringing your patent, contact the Office of General Counsel.
Q: What do I do if I see that someone is using Caltech’s name or logo incorrectly?
If you see a use of Caltech or the Caltech logo or seal by another organization, please contact the a member of the OGC Research & Technology Group.
Q: What do I do if I see someone is mispresenting their Caltech affiliation?
If someone seems to be falsely or inaccurately claiming to be a representative, prior employee, or graduate of Caltech, please contact the Research & Technology Group.
Q: Who can I talk to about questions relating to the copyright in my published work or thesis?
Please contact the Research & Technology Group
Q: What is a Patent?
A patent is a document that grants a property right to protect a specific invention. It is granted by a national governmental agency—in the United States, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The agencies examine patent applications to confirm that they meet the various requirements for patentability, including that they be new, of at least some use, beyond simply a concept, and not obvious. A patent allows the patent holder to exclude others from making, using or selling any products or methods that incorporate the invention specified in the patent for a limited period of time. That right isn’t perpetual –it lasts up to twenty years from the date of filing of the patent application. You don’t need to patent an invention to practice it, and conversely, the fact that you have a patent on an invention doesn’t automatically mean that you can practice it. Though procedures exist to coordinate filing for a patent in multiple countries, no “world patent” exists. Therefore, a patent is only enforceable in the country in which it has issued.
Q: What is a Copyright?
A copyright is a right given to an author to their original work of authorship. Works of authorship can include, literary works, music, performances, audiovisual images, sculpture and architectural works – any work in a fixed, tangible medium of expression. In the U.S., copyright also covers software. The copyright holder has the right to reproduce, modify, distribute, perform, and display the work. Registration isn’t required for an author to receive copyright to a work, but doing so provides for greater ability to seek damages for infringement. Copyrights are usually enforceable in the courts of many nations, and can last up to 100 years after the death of the author.
Q: What is a trademark?
A trademark protects words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others, and serves to indicate the source of the goods or services. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce. In the U.S., trademarks can be registered with state or federal government agencies, or can be obtained by use in commerce (common law trademarks).
Q: What is a trade secret?
A trade secret is information that companies keep secret to give them an advantage over their competitors. Caltech, including Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as an educational institution, does not maintain trade secrets as such, but often is required to protect the trade secrets of others in situations where data from private companies is obtained. These companies will have those who receive such information sign confidentiality agreements such as Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) or Confidential Disclosure Agreements (CDAs).
Q: What should I do if someone asks me to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA), or an information protection agreement (IPA)? What if I am asked to sign an MTA?
These terms apply to an Agreement under which the Institute (or certain Institute employees) agree to hold information received from another company in confidence. For such agreements, both on Campus and at JPL, The Research Affairs Group of the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) should be contacted. If the Agreement relates to a licensable invention or software, or to a material transfer agreement (MTA for the acquisition of biological or other research material, contact the Office of Technology Transfer at campus. Please contact a member of the Research Affairs Group of the OGC if you are uncertain as to who you should contact.
Also, JPL has an OGC approved, pre-signed NDA that may be used for JPL business. This form often will avoid having to negotiate a third party NDA while traveling. The form is only valid if not modified, and is available on our documents webpage.
MTAs are agreements for the transfer of chemical and biological materials for research purposes, and assistance is provided by the Office of Technology Transfer (OTTCP). More information can be found at the OTTCP webpage.
Q: I frequently download music and videos using my laptop on campus or up at JPL. I just received notice of a DMCA violation from IMSS. What do I need to do about it?
You should read the notice carefully and follow any instruction provided by IMSS, but DO NOT contact the copyright owner or their agent - you should follow the instructions of IMSS and not those on the infringement notice. You have probably received the notice from the copyright owner because you or someone using your computer has illegally downloaded copyrighted content, such as music, movies, videos, or software, and your computer is connected to the Institute system. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides what is called a ‘safe harbor' for internet service providers (ISPs), such as the Institute or Yahoo! so that they are not sued for copyright infringement as a result of the copyrighted content passing through their systems on the way to their subscribers. However, in order to qualify for this protection, ISPs are required to block access to the internet by the offending computer, require the removal of the infringing material, and have a program for disciplining repeat offenders. If you want further information about the DMCA or copyright law, go to the Copyright Tutorial, Copyright Tutorial Specifics, or contact OGC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What are the Institute Policies relating to inventions, patents, and copyrights?
The Caltech Patent policy is found here.
The Caltech Copyright and Software Policy is found here.
The Caltech Patent and Copyright Agreement, which all employees are required to sign, is found here.
Q: How do I disclose an invention, or the development of new software, at Caltech?
Disclosures are made through the Office of Technology Transfer on Campus. Instructions can be found at: https://innovation.caltech.edu/content/report-invention-or-discovery.
Disclosures are to the Intellectual Assets Management Office through the NBS system at JPL. Further information can be found at http://NTR.jpl.nasa.gov.
Q: What does Caltech do with royalties from the licensing of inventions and software?
These royalties are used to fund Caltech's educational mission. However, a portion of the royalties is shared with inventors and software developers. For more information see https://innovation.caltech.edu/content/royalties.
Q: What happens when I am collaborating with a researcher from another school? Do they have to sign our patent agreement when they come to the Caltech campus or JPL? Do I have to sign their patent agreement when I go there?
Multi-campus research usually involves the generation of Inter-Institutional Agreements (IIAs) that define the ownership of IP that is developed. If this situation is contemplated, you should contact the Office of Technology Transfer for assistance and they will prepare the IIA.
If you are performing non-funded, multi-campus research at JPL, you need to talk with the Ethics Office and the Contracts Management Office. Depending on the research and your involvement, you may need to file an Outside Business Application or put in place an MOU between Caltech/JPL and the other institution.
Q: What do I do if personnel or facilities are to be used in filming for an outside entity?
For personnel: If the Institute is paying to have the filming be done, a JPL or campus filming release should be signed by the Institute personnel to be filmed. The filming release obtains the appropriate permissions for the Institute to use the filmed product.
If the outside entity is filming on its own behalf, Media Relations at campus or JPL should be contacted to coordinate such filming. Personnel may be asked to sign a filming release. The Research Affairs Group of the General Counsel will review such filming agreements, upon request and as appropriate.
For facilities: For questions regarding use of facilities for filming, please see the FAQ's for Facilities Use.
Q: How can I use the Caltech and JPL name/logo? What about the NASA logo/insignia?
Use of the NASA logo/insignia is limited by law. For use in connection with JPL work, see JPL Rules Use of Logos.
Q: What do I do if I want to use someone else's paper, music, or video in a presentation?
Depending on the use, permissions may need to be obtained from the author and/or the copyright holder. At the very least, an acknowledgment should be made and/or the work should be properly attributed to the author and/or copyright holder. The Research Affairs Group of the Office of the General Counsel would be happy to assist you with specific questions or concerns that you might have.
Q: What is the difference between Facilities Use and Technical Services?
Facilities use agreements or MOUs are entered into for use of campus facilities for uses such as conferences, athletic events, filming and research; however, research performed by Caltech Faculty and staff should be handled by a sponsored research agreement and not a Facilities Use Agreement. Technical services agreements are entered into for instances when campus staff or faculty can provide a unique item or perform a unique service, not including research, for an outside entity. The Office of Sponsored Research receives requests for Facilities Use and Technical Services and then ensures that the appropriate agreements are processed.
Q: I have a colleague from another institution or an outside company who wants to use my lab facilities for a fee. Do I need a written agreement with them?
Yes. It is always important to reduce the terms of such an agreement to writing. You should have a Facilities Use Agreement with the outside party. The Office of Sponsored Research receives requests for Facilities Use Agreements and coordinates with Accounting Services to work with you to craft an agreement to meet your needs.
Q: A collaborator or other outside party has asked me to do some tests or research for them for a fee. Is there a written agreement form for this circumstance?
Yes. It is always important to reduce the terms of such an agreement to writing. You should have a Technical Services Agreement with the outside party. The Office of Sponsored Research receives requests for Technical Services Agreements and coordinated with Accounting Services to work with you to craft an agreement to meet your needs.
Q: I want to collaborate with colleagues from another institution on a research project. No money will change hands, but we may have a student exchange program and/or we will share data. Do I need a written agreement with them?
Yes. While this may be either an informal or formal agreement, it is always important to reduce the terms of your collaboration to writing. Depending on the circumstances of your specific collaboration, you may need a Facilities Use Agreement, a Technical Services Agreement, or simply a Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). You can contact the Research Affairs Group of the Office of the General Counsel or the Office of Sponsored Research to see which may be best suited for your project.
Q: I have been approached by an individual who would like to photograph or film my work. Is there an agreement I need to have them sign?
Yes. It is important that the terms of the photography or filming by agreed upon up front so there is no misunderstanding later as to the purposes for which they can use the images or film later. The Institute has template agreements for any still photography or filming that can be crafted to meet your needs. Please contact Campus Media Relations for filming performed at campus or JPL Media Relations for filming/photography at JPL.
Q: What is a Filming Agreement?
A filming agreement is a special type of facilities use agreement, designed to address issues specific to filming on campus or at JPL. Filming agreements are handled by Campus Media Relations and such agreements at JPL are handled by JPL Media Relations.
Q: What do I do if the media contacts me and asks me questions about a project or mission?
Please refer the media to the appropriate Media Relations office at Campus or at JPL. It is important that consistent information be released from the Institute and these offices can coordinate that information.
Please also see JPL Rules (Release of News and Information to News Media).
Q: What do I do if I want to issue a press release?
Q: What do I do if a vendor wants to publicize their work with Caltech/JPL?
At JPL, there are rules for vendor publicity. Please see JPL Rules (Vendor/Contractor Promotional Materials). Should you have questions about what is appropriate for campus vendors, please contact Procurement Services.
Q: What do I do if I want to publish a website?
At JPL, there are rules for publishing public websites. Please see JPL Rules (Release of Information for Unlimited External Distribution; Release of Scientific and Technical Information; Release of News and Information to News Media; Use of Logos) and coordinate with Document Review Services and the Office of Export Compliance, as necessary.
Care should be taken in developing websites, as there are laws that govern several aspects of developing, offering and maintaining websites- including, but not limited to, laws regarding intellectual property, privacy, and children's usage. Further, some aspects of web design may require construction of legal disclaimers. If you are developing a new website and have any questions or concerns with these issues, please feel free to contact a member of the Research Affairs Group of the Office of the General Counsel.
Q: What is an export?
An export is a shipment or transmission of items, services, or technical data subject to the Export Control Regulations (ECR) out of the United States, or the release of technology, software, or technical data subject to the ECR to a foreign national. An export is deemed to take place when it is released to a foreign national within the United States. Technology, software, or technical data is released for export when it is available to foreign nationals for visual inspection, when technology is exchanged orally, or when technology is made available by practice or application under the guidance of persons with knowledge of the technology.
Q:What are the Export Control Regulations?
The ECR are federal laws that regulate the export of sensitive technology, equipment, software, biological agents, and related data and services. These laws require that licenses be obtained for exports, including deemed exports, unless an exemption exists.
The most encountered ECR are the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR; 22 CFR Parts 120-130) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR; 15 CFR Parts 700-799). The ITAR controls the export of defense articles and defense services. Defense articles include any item or technical data on the United States Munitions List (USML), and defense services, including the furnishing of assistance to foreign persons, whether or not in the United States, with respect to defense articles, and the furnishing of any technical data associated with a defense article. The EAR Commerce Control List controls technologies in ten broad categories. The applicable restrictions depend on the specifics of the technology and where it is being exported.
Q: Who is considered a foreign national?
A foreign national is anyone who is not a U.S. Person under the ECR. U.S. Persons include anyone who is: (1) a US citizen, (2) a permanent resident, as demonstrated by the issuance of a permanent resident visa (i.e., Green Card), (3) granted legal status as a protected person (i.e., political refugees and political asylum holders) under federal law.
Q: What is Fundamental Research?
Fundamental research is not subject to the license requirements of the ECR. Fundamental research is basic or applied research in science or engineering at an accredited institution of higher learning in the U.S. where the resulting information is not restricted in the form or content of its release to the public and is ordinarily published and shared broadly in the scientific community.
Research will not be deemed to qualify as fundamental research if there is a restriction on the publication of the information resulting from the research, or if specific access and dissemination controls are imposed on the research results.
Most research at Caltech campus qualifies as fundamental research. For questions on the applicability of the fundamental research exemption to work at JPL, contact the JPL Office of Export Compliance.
Q: Whom should I contact with my export questions?
Please contact the Offices of Export Compliance with specific questions about the application of the ECR to your work at Campus or JPL. These offices are staffed with experts charged with the day-to-day administration of the Institute's export-related activities, and they will involve the Office of the General Counsel as needed.
Q: Who should negotiate sponsored research agreements?
A researcher is responsible for the technical and budgetary portions of research proposals but should not negotiate the terms of a research agreement. Anytime a sponsor wishes to enter into an agreement to fund research at campus or JPL, the appropriate office should be contacted.
In the case of campus, the Office of Sponsored Research should be contacted. OSR will facilitate the researcher and sponsor in establishing the appropriate written agreements for performance of the work.
In the case of JPL, the Contracts Management Office should be contacted. CMS will facilitate the researcher and sponsor in establishing the appropriate written agreements for performance of the work.
Q: Where can I find general information regarding sponsored projects?
Caltech recently published a guide to sponsored projects on the web. It has a great deal of useful information for both campus and JPL researchers.
Q: I want to perform research using animals, humans or regulated biological materials, what do I need to do?
All such research is subject to special regulations. Campus has committees that oversee these types of research at campus and at JPL. The committees are the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) for animal research, the Human Subjects Committee (HSC) for human research and the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) for research utilizing recombinant DNA and certain microbes. Please contact these committees for assistance.
Q: Whom should I contact regarding Technology Transfer?
Caltech's Office of Technology Transfer can answer questions regarding transfer/licensing of particular Caltech-owned technologies and software. Should you have a specific legal question regarding technology transfer, please contact a member of the Research Affairs Group of the Office of General Counsel or see the FAQ's for Intellectual Property.
Q: Where can I find a copy of the Institute Patent Policy?
A copy of the current Institute Patent Policy can be found at
Q: What do I do if I want to publish a website?
At JPL, there are rules for publishing public websites. Please see JPL Rules (Release of Information for Unlimited External Distribution; Release of Scientific and Technical Information; Release of News and Information to News Media; Use of Logos) and coordinate with Document Review Services and the Office of Export Compliance, as necessary.
Care should be taken in developing websites, as there are laws that govern several aspects of developing, offering and maintaining websites- including, but not limited to, laws regarding intellectual property, privacy, electronic commerce, and children's usage. Further, some aspects of web design may require construction of legal disclaimers. If you are developing a new website and have any questions or concerns with these issues, please feel free to contact a member of the Research Affairs Group of the Office of General Counsel.
Q: I have witnessed, been involved in, or have knowledge of an accident on campus or at JPL. What do I do?
In the event of an accident at JPL, contact JPL security from JPL phones via 911 or from your cell phone at (818) 393-3333 or (818) 354-3333. See http://prepare.jpl.nasa.gov/ for further information.
In the event of an accident at Caltech Campus, contact Campus security from on-campus telephones by dialing 5000 or from off-campus telephones by dialing (626) 395-5000.
Q: I have noticed something on campus or at JPL that I think may pose a safety concern. What should I do?
If there is an immediate danger, please call x5000 on campus or 911 at JPL.
If the safety concern is less immediate, please contact the Environmental, Health, and Safety office at either Campus [(626) 395-6727] or at JPL [(818) 393-6483]. At JPL, you may also use the NASA Safety Reporting System to make an anonymous report through the NSRS website at http://www.hq.nasa.gov/nsrs.
Q. What do I do if I have a health or safety emergency on campus?
If there is an immediate threat to health or safety, call security at x5000 on campus or 911 at JPL (or 3-3333 from a JPL phone). Security will also notify safety and other offices that need to be involved.
Q. I was involved in a car accident in an Institute vehicle off site. What should I do?
Contact the police to make a report. If it is a serious accident, you should contact Caltech security to report the accident. You should also report the accident to the Division or Department from whom you borrowed the vehicle, and the Caltech Risk Manager (626) 395-6324.
Q. What do I do if I believe a student is suicidal?
Immediately contact security at x5000. If you are in a house, you can also contact the RA. You should let the Deans know as well.
Q. What should I do if I have a violent or threatening co-worker?
Contact Security if there is an immediate threat (x5000 on campus; 911 or 3-3333 at JPL). If there is no immediate threat, notify your supervisor and Employee Relations.
Q: What is a legal contract?
A contract is generally any agreement that creates rights or obligations for the Institute. The most common form of a contract is in writing and generally describes the rights and responsibilities of each party. Contracts are often simply recognized by their title, which often includes the term "Agreement" or "Contract." Also, whenever a written instrument of any kind requires the signature of an Institute representative, this should raise concerns that some legal obligation is being created.
There are often occasions when the legal nature of a document is unclear or ambiguous on its face. Examples of these types of documents are papers that are titled, for example, "Acknowledgement," "Consent," "Waiver" or other such names. Questions may also arise when asked to sign a simple purchase acknowledgement or payment form or when a transaction involves little or no money changing hands. However, in many of these cases, these transactions nonetheless involve commitments to legal terms and conditions, often referencing a separate document or terms and conditions that can be found online. This is often the case when using free licensed software or accessing fee based online information, such as databases or journals. In recent years, it is common for online transactions to include a "click here" step that may result in the execution of a legal agreement or license.
Q: How do I make a gift to Caltech?
Q: What is Caltech's taxpayer ID number?
Caltech's taxpayer ID number is 95-1643307.
Q: Where do I send a notice of petition to probate a will where Caltech is named as a beneficiary?
A petition to probate a will where Caltech is a beneficiary should be sent to the General Counsel's Office.
Q: What is the tax status of Caltech?
Caltech is as a nonprofit tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This means that Caltech is exempt from Federal income tax on its activities related to its exempt purpose.
Q: What is unrelated business income?
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public benefit corporation, Caltech is not subject to Federal tax on its income except for unrelated business income. Unrelated business income is income derived from 1) a trade or business, 2) which is regularly carried on, and 3) which is not substantially related to the performance of Caltech's tax-exempt functions. The fact that income is used to further Caltech's exempt purposes is immaterial; the income itself must be derived in the course of furthering an exempt purpose.
Q: What is the legal status of Caltech?
Caltech is a nonprofit public benefit corporation.
Q: What is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory? What is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's relationship to Caltech?
JPL is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) managed by Caltech under a prime contract/sponsoring agreement with NASA (48 CFR 35.017-1). JPL is located at 4800 Oak Grove Drive in Pasadena, California. JPL is also an unincorporated subdivision of Caltech. JPL executed subcontracts are accordingly contracts with Caltech.