Ownership of Intellectual Property

The Foundation’s policies regarding the ownership and use of the intellectual property in work produced with Foundation funds are based on two fundamental principles: (1) intellectual property produced with charitable funds must serve a charitable purpose; and (2) as a general matter, the Foundation should have broad rights to use any intellectual property in work produced with its funds.


Consistent with these principles, the terms of our standard form of grant agreement provide that the grantee owns the copyright interest in work produced under the grant but also grants to the Foundation an irrevocable and broad license that essentially allows us to use the work produced with our grant funds in any way we see fit, free of charge and without the need for any additional permission. When we fund a project through a contract, as opposed to a grant, the Foundation owns the copyright interest in the work produced with our funds. Under both approaches, we possess intellectual property rights that allow for us to use the work produced in whatever ways we wish. The major distinction is the right the awardee will have in the work produced.


From time to time, though, our standard approaches to intellectual property ownership do not work. Authors wishing to publish work funded by the Foundation, for example, often find that publishers are unwilling to publish unless the Foundation waives its license rights to the work in question. Similarly, a grantee using Foundation funds to produce a product or service that will be sold often needs the Foundation to waive or modify its standard license rights for the project to proceed. Or, we might feel a need to modify our normal grant terms to better preserve and document the charitable purpose of the award. This often occurs when dealing with a grantee that is a for-profit entity. Whether and how to modify our standard intellectual property provisions to fit the needs of a particular project is a case-by-case analysis that requires careful consideration.


Because the issues to consider are complicated, when developing a project that may require the Foundation to modify its standard intellectual property provisions, you should consult with the Foundation early in the process.


Open Access
In order to ensure RWJF supported research is made accessible to a wide and diverse audience, grantees who publish findings in peer-reviewed publications must do so in open access journals. The Foundation's full open access policy is available here

Use of the RWJF Name

As you know, and as stated in your grant agreement, all Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grantees are prohibited, under federal law, from lobbying with Foundation funds.  Grantees may, under applicable law, engage in certain lobbying activities that do not involve the expenditure of Foundation funds.


However, programs whose name includes “Robert Wood Johnson Foundation” or “Robert Wood Johnson” bear a special responsibility for the careful management of the name and reputation of the Foundation as a non-partisan organization that does not engage in prohibited lobbying activities, particularly when communicating with public policymakers.  Even if such programs engage in lobbying activities, as defined in law, that do not involve expenditure of Foundation funds, those might be construed by other participants in such activities or by those who receive such communications as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation communication or an endorsement by the Foundation. 


Therefore, no program that bears the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation name may engage in lobbying activities or lobbying communications.  The Foundation’s memorandum explaining the scope of prohibited lobbying activities can be found here.


Exceptions to this policy may be granted only by prior approval by the Foundation.


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