Writing Resources Center

[GUIDE] Intellectual property rights (patents/copyrights) vis-à-vis academic writing

By Editorial Staff, Writing Resources Center


Intellectual property rights are the rights of the creators crediting them of their original creations. The intellectual property rights or IPRs include patents, copyrights, trademarks, service marks, geographical indications, certificates of origin, industrial designs, etc.

Understanding the importance of IPR especially copyrights and patents is highly relevant for the academic authors. The authors from science, technology, and engineering domains need to apprise themselves of knowledge on patents and copyrights while for authors from social sciences, humanities and literature are expected of knowing copyrights at minimum.

Reproducing IPR protected content without written or express permission is dangerous or even suicidal when it comes to academic writing.

How do IPRs (patents and copyrights) affect academic writing?

For the academic authors, the knowledge on the copyrights and patents is relevant especially when they are referring and intend to reproduce works of others i.e. the copyrighted or patented works. If some work is patented or copyrighted by its original inventors/creators, the authors intending to use any part of such protected work need to have permission from its rights-owners.

Reproducing IPR protected content without written or express permission is dangerous or even suicidal when it comes to academic writing. The academic authors need to give credit to the creators of the original works by making a proper citation to the original work as a reference. In case, the academic authors need to reproduce a part of already published (IPR protected) work, they need to have permission from the copyright or patent holders.

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Why & how to seek copyright permissions?

The academic authors while reproducing the works of others, as a matter of prudence and best practice, need to have copyright permission from the primary creators of the work. Doing so will save them from legal actions by the original creators as if the original work is protected by the copyright, it gives its creators legal right to protect their rights against infringement of their copyright.

Reproducing copyrighted works without express permissions and without proper citation also amounts to plagiarism which is in itself a scholarly misconduct. The academic authors need to understand that it is always necessary to have written and express permission if they need to reproduce the works of others. These works may include theories, conclusions, analysis, models, figures, tables, etc.

To get the copyright permissions, one may refer to the full-text of the published works which generally includes information on how to reproduce whole or any part of the protected work. For this, contact with the authors of the protected work if they have a copyright with them to allow permission to reproduce their content. In case the original authors had transferred the copyright to the publisher, refer to the publisher’s policy on copyright and content reproduction and request for the reproduction permission.

Reproducing copyrighted works without express permissions and without proper citation also amounts to plagiarism which is in itself a scholarly misconduct.

Another way is to get the copyright permission via Copyright Clearance Center which connects copyright holders and permission seekers.

How should the academic authors get copyright/patent to their works?

For this, one needs to refer to the IPR rules of his/her own country as some countries don’t allow IPR protection if the works have already been published as the same are deemed to be in the public domain.

It is always prudent to get your work protected before sending the same out for publication or in case you think that the same should be protected by your publisher, refer to the copyright policy of your publisher. Seek information and clarification from your publisher, in case you need to know more.

Additional resources (external)

Intellectual Property Policies for Universities

Copyright Clearance Center


This guide is brought to you by the Writing Resources Center of CSMFL Publications


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