Intellectual Property: Copyrights and Patents

I.         Mission Statement

Spelman College, a historically Black college for women and a global leader in the education of women of African descent, is dedicated to academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences
and the intellectual, creative, ethical and leadership potential of its students.  Spelman empowers the whole person to engage the many cultures of the world and inspires a commitment to positive social change.

II.        General Intellectual Property Statement

The College shall establish procedures and provide information as necessary to ensure that all faculty, staff and students comply with all laws pertaining to intellectual property.  This policy statement is intended to provide general guidance on the policy and does not constitute legal advice.

III.      The Policy

It is the policy of Spelman to respect the valid intellectual property of others and to take prudent steps to protect Spelman’s intellectual property.

Intellectual property is generally understood to refer to products of mental processes that are legally protected as property, whether or not formal legal protection is sought. Intellectual Property falls into five categories: copyrights, software, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets.

Copyright:  A right granted by the United States government to the creator or a particular work to prevent others from copying, adapting, distributing, publicly performing, or displaying the protected work without the permission of the creator. Examples of items subject to copyright protection include the following: (a) books, journals, texts, bibliographies, study guides, laboratory manuals, syllabi,  and tests; (b) lectures, musical compositions, and dramatic compositions including manuscripts; (c) films, presentation slides, charts, overhead projector materials, and other visual works; (d) video recordings and audio recordings; (e) live video broadcasts and live audio broadcasts; (e) pictorial or graphic works; and (f) other materials which quality for statutory copyright protection.  For works created since 1978, copyright protection begins as soon as the creation is put in a tangible form (e.g., put on paper, canvas, or on a disk).

Software: Any computer program in any form, including the underlying source code or machine code that is capable of causing a computer to perform specified functions.

Patent: A right granted by the United States government to exclude others from making, using or selling a particular invention, excluding software, in the United States.

Trademark: Any word, symbol, design, smell, sound, shape or combination of the same used to identify and distinguish the source of one party’s products from another. Examples of trademarks are the name SPELMAN, the shape of the Coca-Cola bottle, and the lion’s roar for MGM. In the
United States, trademark rights are based on use and not registration. Thus, the fact that a mark is not registered does not mean that it is available for use.

Trade Secret: Any valuable business information, with actual or potential economic value, that is not public or commonly known and for which reasonable efforts have been made to keep confidential. Examples of trade secrets include student admission protocols, technical and non- technical data, methods, techniques, financial data, financial plans, lists of customers or
suppliers, and the formula for Coca-Cola.

All Spelman College faculty, fellows, staff, students, and other individuals in the Spelman College community are expected to have a basic understanding of and shall adhere to all laws regarding intellectual property.

IV.      Implementation and Oversight

A college-wide Intellectual Property Policy Committee (IPPC) will be appointed the Office of
the President, whose membership consists of two faculty members, five staff members (including representatives from Academic Affairs, MIT, Student Affairs, Business & Financial Affairs, and Communications), and one student representative. At the discretion of the President, the
Secretary of the College may also be appointed to this committee.  The IPPC will have responsibility and oversight to address any issues concerning the proper interpretation of this policy and to resolve any disputes between an intellectual property owner and Spelman College concerning potential infringement. In cases in which it is deemed that Spelman College would infringe protected intellectual property rights, the IPPC will serve as the College’s central unit
for securing permissions to use intellectual property, at the discretion of the IPPC. The IPPC will
serve as the College’s central unit for facilitating and obtaining intellectual property protection on works developed and/or produced on behalf of Spelman College. This committee will also take the lead in recommending updates to this policy.

The staff members of the IPPC will be appointed by their respective Vice Presidents and serve a term of two years (although at the discretion of their respective VP and in consideration of their normal job duties, this term may be shorter). Faculty members will be appointed by the Faculty Council. The Student Government Association will recommend a student representative (student representatives will serve in one year cycles). The IPPC will formulate its own operating procedures and present to the College’s Senior Team for approval. The IPPC will appoint a chair of the committee from its membership who function will be to coordinate meetings and oversee the operational procedures of the committee.

V.        Violation of Policy

Faculty, fellow, staff, students, and other members of the Spelman College community who fail to comply with the intellectual property laws and willfully infringe them may face fines, and civil and criminal penalties in the Courts. Spelman College employees in violation of these
established procedures and requirements may be subject to disciplinary action (as outlined in the Faculty and Staff Handbooks respectively), up to and including termination. Students in violation of these established procedures and requirements may also be subject to disciplinary action (as outlined in the Student Handbook).

VI.      University Rights to Intellectual Property

Any intellectual property which is made in the field or discipline in which the creator is engaged by Spelman College or made with the use of Spelman College support is the property of Spelman College, subject to the exception below for student copyrights. Spelman College personnel are required to promptly disclose, as is reasonably practical, all intellectual property created in the course of Spelman College-supported work. Works developed while engaged by Spelman
College that are sponsored by private parties, business entities, non-profit entities, and state and local government agencies shall be the intellectual property of Spelman College, unless other arrangements to outside organizations override this policy and these arrangements have previously been approved by the IPPC. Spelman College personnel engaged in consulting work shall ensure that their consulting arrangements are not in conflict with Spelman College’s intellectual property policies.

Intellectual property developed by faculty, fellows, staff, students, and other members of the Spelman College community outside the scope of employment or without the use of Spelman College support are not owned by Spelman College. Spelman College does not have rights to any revenues generated by the use or sale of this intellectual property.

Exception: Spelman College does not have a copyright interest to works created by students pursuant to obtaining their degrees.  For instance, a student shall retain the copyright to their original works, including but not limited to any test answers, research papers, term papers, and course work produced in the course of pursuing a degree.

See Intellectual Property Agreement in Appendix A

VII.      Copyright Protections and Fair Use Principles

Principle 1: The copyright holder has important and exclusive rights. Copyright law protects original works such as writings, music, visual arts, and films by giving the copyright holder a set of exclusive rights in that work. These rights include the right to copy, distribute, adapt, perform, display, and create derivative or collected works. In general, any use of copyrighted materials requires permission from, and potentially payment of royalties to, the copyright holder unless the use falls within an exemption in the law, such as the fair use exemption. Fair Use is a fairly complex and fact specific analysis, Faculty and Staff should consult the IPPC for guidance on particular situations.

Principle 2: Responsible decision making means that Spelman College community members must make demonstrable good faith efforts to understand the fundamentals of copyright law and the reasonable application of fair use. When Spelman College community members plan to use a copyrighted work in their teaching or research, they must examine the specifics of their use within the context of the law in order to determine whether they should seek permission for the use or depend instead upon the fair use exemption.

Principle 3: An appropriate exercise of fair use depends on a case-by-case application and balancing of four factors as set forth in a statute enacted by Congress. A proper determination of fair use--in daily practice and in the courts--requires applying these four factors to the specific
circumstances of the use:


Four Factors Used to Determine "Fair Use"
Purpose or character of the use
Nature of the copyrighted work being used
Amount and substantiality of the work being used               
Effect of the use on the market for or value of the original

These factors must be evaluated to determine whether most of them weigh in favor of or against fair use.
Principle 4: Nonprofit educational purposes are generally favored in the application of the four factors of fair use, but an educational use does not by itself make the use a "fair use." One must always consider and weigh all four factors of fair use together. The educational purpose of Spelman College will usually weight the first of the four factors, the purpose or character of the use, in favor of fair use. However, an educational use does not mean that the use is, by that factor alone, a fair use. All four factors must be weighed in making a decision.

Principle 5: Reasonable people--including judges and legislators--can and will differ in their understanding of fair use. Copyright law rarely offers a definitive meaning of fair use for any specific application. Thus, the real meaning of fair use depends on a reasoned and responsible application of the four factors. One person's judgment and situation may not match the next, and the differences may be based on variations in facts and circumstances. Therefore, the IPPC must determine whether a proposed use is a fair use.

Principle 6. Spelman owns the copyright to all works prepared by Faculty, staff, and all employees of the college, including part time student employees and visiting faculty, staff, and student employees when prepared within the scope of their employment. If an employee has any questions about whether work is owned by Spelman or not should contact the IPPC prior to creation of the work.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act – The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) enacted in October 1998, amended the Copyright Act, by adding specific provisions relating to digital content. The DMCA enforces laws to prevent the circumvention of software or other technological locks that give copyright holders the right to control access, print, download, copy, or further distribute their digital works.

TEACH Act – The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act was enacted in November 2002, as an amendment to the Copyright Act of 1976. Found in section
110(2) of the Act, it covers distance education as well as face-to-face teaching which has an online, hybrid, or broadcast component.

See Copyright Assignment Forms in Appendix A

VIII.   Computer Software

Spelman College personnel are required to promptly disclose, as is reasonably practical, all intellectual property created in the course of Spelman College-supported work, including the complete disclosure of any developed computer software. Spelman College shall own all patents, copyrights, and other intellectual property rights to the computer software. If deemed
appropriate, the computer software may be deemed an invention and further become subject to the provisions of Section IX of this policy.

See Software and Multimedia Works Form in Appendix A

IX.      Inventions and Patents

Inventor: Any person who makes an invention and who meets the criteria for inventorship under current United States patent laws and regulations.
Invention: Any patentable or potentially patentable discovery, method, or technology. Spelman College personnel are required to promptly disclose, as is reasonably practical, all
intellectual property created in the course of Spelman College-supported work, including the complete disclosure of inventions. The IPPC shall be solely responsible for determining whether a patent application shall be filed for an invention. Should the IPPC elect to pursue patent protection for an invention, any inventor shall cooperate, without expense to the inventor, in the patenting process. Any inventor shall be obligated to assign the entire right and title of the invention to Spelman College. The IPPC shall have the sole discretion related to the commercialization of an invention.

If the IPPC determines that it will not file a patent application for an invention, abandons a filed patent application before issuance, or abandons an issued patent by failure to pay patent maintenance fees, then any inventor may request from the IPPC a release of the invention. At the sole discretion of the IPPC, the invention may then be assigned to any inventor(s). Release of an invention may be conditioned upon reimbursement to Spelman College for all legal expenses and fees incurred by Spelman College if and when any inventor receives income from the invention. Any invention released by Spelman College by assignment to any inventor shall automatically grant back to Spelman College an irrevocable, perpetual, royalty free, nonexclusive license to
use the invention in Spelman College’s educational and research purposes and a right to grant these same rights to other non-profit educational institutions.

As permitted by federal government regulations, Spelman College may retain patent rights to inventions which result from federally funded endeavors. In such circumstances, the federal government retains a royalty free license to the patent. Other federal government restrictions may also apply to such patents.

See Patent Assignment and Invention Disclosure Forms in Appendix A

X. Trademarks

The use of Spelman College’s name, logos, or trademarks in any commercial way requires prior
written approval from the Office of Communications. All members of the Spelman College
community will use the trademarks and logos correctly and consistently so that Spelman’s
trademarks will retain their strength and vitality.  See attached proper use guidelines.

No new trademarks or logos may be adopted for use by Spelman College without the prior written approval of the IPPC. Please note that the legal clearance process for new trademarks may be time consuming and those seeking approval must plan accordingly.

XI. Trade Secrets

It is the policy of Spelman College to take all appropriate steps to maintain its trade secrets and confidential information, this would include, but is not limited to, restricting access to confidential information to personnel on a need to know basis and placing notations on the material and/or the files where the information is stored noting that the information is CONFIDENTIAL or similar wording.

XII. Revenue Sharing
Creators: Any author, inventor, or contributor involved in the creation of intellectual property. Spelman College shall distribute a portion of the net revenue obtained from the
commercialization, licensing, or other distribution of intellectual property to applicable Spelman
College creators. Such distributions shall take place on an annual basis, unless otherwise decided by the IPPC. In circumstances where a single piece of intellectual property has greater than one creator, each creator shall be entitled to an equal share of the distributed portion of the net revenue.

Spelman College shall distribute one hundred percent (100%) of the first $10,000.00 of net revenue obtained to the creator(s). Thereafter, Spelman College shall distribute to the creator(s) thirty three percent (33%) of the net revenues obtained up to $1,000,000.00. Thereafter, Spelman College shall distribute to the creator(s) twenty five percent (25%) of the net revenues obtained beyond $1,000,000. Creators shall be entitled to receive their distribution share if they leave the employment of Spelman College. The estate or designated beneficiary of a deceased creator shall be entitled to receive his or her distribution. All creators receiving a portion of the net revenue obtained from creations shall be responsible for any personal tax obligations that may arise.

XIII.   Spelman College Intellectual Property Contact - For questions relating to this policy, please contact the Chair of the Intellectual Property t Policy Committee.

XIV.   Copyright Resources on the Web

US Copyright Office:

XV.      Questions – Please contact the IPPC. However, IPPC will not provide legal advice to employees, non-employees or students. Obtaining legal advice on these matters is the sole responsibility of the employee, non-employee or student.
Spelman College reserves the right to change this policy at any time without prior notice or consent.


Appendix A: Intellectual Property Forms

Intellectual Property Agreement




PATENT ASSIGNMENT (multiple inventors)

PATENT ASSIGNMENT (single inventor)


Policy No.  090