Glossary - CTTEC - Carnegie Mellon University

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Confidentiality Agreements Confidentiality agreements are legal contracts that govern the exchange and use of confidential information. You should get a confidentiality agreement in place each time you want to receive confidential information, share your confidential information or transfer someone else's confidential information. Make sure they are in place before you give or receive the information. For more on confidentiality agreements, contact us at Here is a sample confidentiality agreement
Copyrights Copyrights protect "original works of authorship" including literary, musical and artistic works, computer software, photographs, designs, sound recordings, pantomimes, choreographies, and motion pictures. In general, the author of a copyrighted work has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute and display the work as well as the right to develop derivative works or to perform the work publicly. Per CMU IP Policy, many of these rights are retained by the Creator; however, ownership rights in computer software may be retained by the university.  Copyright registration is not required to secure copyright protection; the protection begins as soon as the work is fixed in a tangible medium. However, if the copyright owner wants to sue someone for copyright infringement, copyright registration provides additional rights.
Intellectual Property Intellectual Property (IP) describes the spectrum of human creativity, any intangible asset that is comprised of human knowledge and ideas. IP law defines: rights over the property, requirements and methods for obtaining the rights, content of the IP, and duration of the IP holder's rights. CTTEC helps protect inventors’ IP through Confidentiality Agreements, Patents, Copyrights and Open Source Licenses.
Licenses Licenses are the formal mechanism of transfer of Carnegie Mellon's technology to either existing companies or to a start-up company. They define the intellectual property to be transferred, the royalty terms, exclusivity, and the development milestones to be met by the company (often including minimum amounts of capital to be raised and significant measures of progress) to ensure that the technology is being moved to market for public benefit as consistent with the Bayh-Dole Act. The New Company Term Sheet (.pdf) gives more detail about how this works.
Open Source Open Source is a way of distributing software to the public. In general, open source refers to any program whose source code is made available for use or modification under an approved Open Source license.  CMU prefers the use of some open source licenses over others.  Some issues to consider include:
  • Do you want the uses to be limited to educational, research or non-commercial?
  • Do you want the source code to be available?

  • Do you want to limit distribution rights?
  • Are users required to provide alterations back to you and/or make them publicly available as well under the same agreement?
  • Can others charge for products that use the code? (e.g. Redhat)
  • Are users required to keep an attribution to the original authors?
More information on this topic is available at the open source initiative
Patents Patents give the owner the right to exclude others from making, using or selling a product or process claimed by the patent. They are granted by the government and give the owner rights for a specific period of time, usually 20 years. Types of inventions that can be patented include the discovery or creation of new material, a new process, a new use for an existing material, or an improvement to a process or material. See FAQ for more on patents.