Intellectual Property

Protection of Intellectual Property is important to both our academic and industrial users CNF employs a flexible policy which protects the intellectual property of our users.

CNF Lab use via the User Program

All direct use of CNF is through the CNF User Program. The Intellectual Property Policy of the facility is simple: Cornell University does not make any claim on your intellectual property based soley on your use of our facility. Effectively, you are merely renting equipment time in our facility.

CNF operates as a user facility. Under normal conditions, work in our facility is done by your people using your ideas. CNF provides access to equipment, and CNF staff will normally provide only equipment instruction and general process support for common open processes. Users need not tell us the details of their processes, design, or process integration, and they need not ask for our assistance in developing intellectual property. We have many companies who work in CNF under these conditions. Users learn to keep private information to themselves.

That being said, if you choose to disclose confidential information to CNF staff or other users you should have no expectation of continued confidentiality. If you ask for CNF staff assistance in solving a specific problem and that interaction results in new intellectual property, CNF may have partial claim to that property, as you would expect. This, however, rarely happens and does not happen by accident. Most industrial projects bring their own skilled scientists to work in our laboratory so little high level technical interaction is required..

In short, as long as you seek only general equipment and process instruction your intellectual property is clear.

Note, if you seek the academic expertise and process knowledge of CU faculty and grad students, you should consider the completely different mode described below.

Sponsored Research

The User Mode described above is relatively unique to CNF and Cornell ( and other NNCI sites). The other method of interacting with Cornell, which is similar to that at most other universities, is through sponsored research. Companies may establish a sponsored research program with any Cornell Faculty member to gain access to that faculty member's (and his students') unique expertise. Here the intellectual center and drive for the project centers with the faculty member not with the sponsor. This is typically a longer term interaction that does not involve deliverables. These arrangements and the disposition of intellectual property are between the company and the faculty member. CNF has essentially no part in these arrangements; they are mentioned here only as it is the common and only mode at other universities and to distinguish this interaction from the User Program described above.


If you have questions regarding this policy, please contact the CNF User Program.