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Business Related FAQ

A contract is an agreement that creates rights or obligations on behalf of the parties signing the agreement. The most common form of a contract is in writing and generally describes the rights and responsibilities of each party. Contracts are often simply recognized by their title, which often includes the term "Agreement" or "Contract."

There are occasions when the legal nature of a document is unclear or ambiguous on its face. Examples of these types of documents are papers that are titled, for example, "Acknowledgement," "Consent," "Waiver" or other such names. If you have questions as to whether the document you are being asked to sign creates legal obligations on behalf of you or the Institute please contact Caltech's Office of General Counsel ("OGC").

A Memorandum of Understanding or "MOU" is a document that sets forth understandings between parties regarding collaborations and cooperation in pursuit of mutually agreeable objectives. An MOU may or may not include the specific details of the understanding and often does not involve exchange of funds or firm commitments by either party. However, depending on the terms of an MOU, a court may consider an MOU to be a binding agreement.

Caltech is a nonprofit public benefit corporation organized under the laws of the State of California. Caltech's registered agent for service of process is CT Corporation System, 330 N. Brand Blvd., Suite 700, Glendale, CA, 91203.

Caltech is as a nonprofit tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Caltech is exempt from Federal income tax on its activities related to its exempt purpose.

JPL is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) managed by Caltech under a prime contract/sponsoring agreement between Caltech and NASA (48 CFR 35.017-1). JPL is located at 4800 Oak Grove Drive in Pasadena, California. JPL also is an unincorporated operating subdivision of Caltech. JPL employees are Caltech employees, and subcontracts executed with JPL are contracts with Caltech.

Employment Related FAQ

The Office of General Counsel's role is to provide legal services to the Institute. We cannot provide personal legal advice to individuals. We may be able to offer you a referral to an attorney who can provide you with personal legal advice.

Incidental use of Caltech telephones and email is permitted consistent with Caltech policy. For JPL employees, see JPL Rules for information on use of electronic resources and communications resources and for information on personal use of telephones.

As a representative of the Institute, Caltech employees must not solicit or accept from any interested party any gratuity or other thing of value for yourself or your family, friends, and associates when such behavior could affect, or reasonably have the appearance of affecting, your impartiality. You should be particularly careful not to place yourself in the position of accepting a gratuity when you are involved in any phase of procurement.

Caltech employees are prohibited from offering or giving gratuities to any employee of the government with the intention of obtaining favorable treatment under a government contract or grant. The government may infer the intent to obtain favorable treatment when a gratuity is offered, so such situations should be avoided entirely.

Consistent with the Institute's conflict of interest policy, employees are permitted to engage in outside employment, consulting, or business activities provided that no actual or potential conflict of interest or appearance of such conflict exists and that the activity does not adversely affect their ability to perform their jobs. For further information regarding approval of and restrictions on outside employment, Campus employees should refer to Personnel Memorandum 9-3 and JPL employees should consult JPL Rules.

Export Related FAQ

The Export Control Regulations (ECR) are federal laws and regulations that govern the export of controlled sensitive technology, technical data, equipment, software, biological agents, and related data and services for national security reasons. These laws require that licenses be obtained for exports, including deemed exports, unless an exception exists.

The most encountered ECR are the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR; 22 C.F.R. ยง 120-130) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR; 15 CFR Parts 700-799). The ITAR controls the export of defense articles and defense services to foreign persons and entities. Defense articles include any item or technical data on the United States Munitions List (USML), and defense services, including the furnishing of assistance to foreign persons, whether or not in the United States, with respect to defense articles, and the furnishing of any technical data associated with a defense article. The EAR Commerce Control List controls technologies in ten broad categories. The applicable restrictions depend on the specifics of the technology and where it is being exported.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) administers and enforces economic sanctions programs primarily against countries and groups of individuals.

An export is a shipment or transfer of items, technical data or technology, technical services, hardware or software subject to the Export Control Regulations (ECR) out of the United States, or the release of technology, software, or technical data subject to the ECR to a foreign national. An export is deemed to take place when it is released to or shared with a foreign national within the United States. Technology, software, or technical data is released for export when it is available to foreign nationals for visual inspection, when technology is exchanged orally, or when technology is made available by practice or application under the guidance of persons with knowledge of the technology.

Under the ECR, a foreign person is anyone who is not a U.S. Person -- in other words, anyone who is not: (1) a US citizen, (2) a permanent resident, as demonstrated by the issuance of a permanent resident visa (i.e., Green Card), (3) granted legal status as a protected person (e.g., political refugees and political asylum holders) under federal law.

Fundamental research, as defined in the regulations, is not subject to the license requirements of the ECR. Fundamental research is basic or applied research in science or engineering at an accredited institution of higher learning in the U.S. where the resulting information is not restricted in the form or content of its release to the public and is ordinarily published and shared broadly in the scientific community.

Research will not be deemed to qualify as fundamental research if there is a restriction on the publication of the information resulting from the research, or if specific access and dissemination controls are imposed on the research results.

Most research at Caltech campus qualifies as fundamental research. For questions on the applicability of the fundamental research exemption to work at JPL, contact the JPL Office of Export Compliance.

Please contact the Office of Export Compliance on campus and the Import / Export Compliance Office at JPL with specific questions about the application of the ECR to your work. These offices are staffed with experts charged with the day-to-day administration of the Institute's export-related activities, and they will involve the Office of the General Counsel as needed.

Facilities Related FAQ

In the event of an accident at Caltech campus, immediately contact Campus security from on-campus telephones by dialing 5000 or from off-campus telephones by dialing (626) 395-5000. See

If there is an immediate danger, please call x5000 on campus or (626) 395-5000. If the safety concern is less immediate, please contact the Environmental, Health, and Safety office at (626) 395-6727.

If there is an immediate threat to health or safety, call security at x5000 on campus or (626) 395-5000. Security will also notify safety and other offices that need to be involved.

Contact the local police to make a report. If it is a serious accident, you should contact Caltech security to report the accident. You should also report the accident to the Division or Department from whom you borrowed the vehicle, and the Caltech Risk Manager at (626) 395-6324.

Contact Security if there is an immediate threat at x5000 on campus or (626) 395-5000. If there is no immediate threat, notify your supervisor and Employee Relations.

Caltech is committed to ensuring the safety and security of its community. Caltech promulgates an Annual Security and Fire Safety Report (ASR) to detail its crime-prevention and safety-related services and programs, as well as to identify the resources that Caltech has developed to educate and empower current and prospective students and employees. The most recent version of Caltech's ASR can be found here.

Immigration Related FAQ

The nonimmigrant statuses that are most frequently used for foreign nationals studying and working at Caltech are F, J, E-3, H, O, and TN. The International Offices (International Scholar Services and International Student Programs on campus and the JPL International Office) work closely with each foreign national to ensure that the individual has an appropriate nonimmigrant status. Additional information is available on the International Offices website.

Litigation Related FAQ

To initiate a lawsuit, a plaintiff must serve a summons and a complaint on the defendant informing the defendant about the nature of the allegations against the defendant and the damages that the plaintiff seeks. The defendant must respond to the complaint within a set period of time (usually 20 days in federal court and 30 days in state court).

A subpoena directs an individual or entity to provide testimony or documents in a legal proceeding. The recipient of a subpoena is legally required to comply with the subpoena, unless a court orders otherwise. If you receive a subpoena directed to, or requesting documents or information from, Caltech or any of its employees or divisions, including JPL, please contact the Office of the General Counsel before providing any information.

If a non-Caltech attorney contacts you seeking information about Caltech or any of its employees or divisions, including JPL, please contact the Office of the General Counsel before providing any information on behalf of Caltech.

You should state that you are not authorized to accept the documents and refer the process server to OGC at (626) 395-3241 or (818) 354-0999. If you receive a summons or subpoena in the mail, or you are personally served with a complaint or legal document relating to Caltech or JPL matters, including actions that you allegedly took within the scope of your professional duties as a Caltech employee, please contact OGC immediately. Any delay in responding to these documents can result in serious legal consequences for the Institute.

You must comply with the jury summons, unless the court excuses you. Please review your summons to see if you meet any of the criteria for being excused from jury service, or postponing jury service, and follow the procedures outlined in your summons. For further information, you may consult Caltech's jury service policies:

Campus Policy:
JPL Rules:

A Hold Order is an important directive from the Office of the General Counsel which instructs you to retain all records (e.g., emails, word documents, power point presentations, data, recorded matter, etc.) related to the issue identified in the Hold Order. When you receive a Hold Order, please read it carefully and comply with its instructions. Failure to comply with a Hold Order can result in serious legal consequences for the Institute. If you have any questions about the Hold Order you received, please call the attorney who issued it to you.

The attorney-client privilege is the legal right to keep confidential certain communications, whether written or oral, between a client and his or her attorney. In the context of Caltech, the attorney-client privilege generally applies to communications between Caltech's attorneys and Caltech employees with respect to discussions concerning Caltech business and affairs. The privilege generally belongs to Caltech as an entity. Therefore, individual Caltech employees should not share privileged communications with anyone other than a Caltech attorney. Please keep these communications secured and confidential. If you believe that another individual should be informed about your privileged communications with a Caltech attorney, please speak to the Caltech attorney with whom you are working before you share any privileged communications.

If the matter involves a Caltech campus purchase order or contract, please contact the Caltech Purchasing Hotline at (626) 395-8900. If the matter involves a JPL purchase order or subcontract, please contact the assigned JPL subcontract manager. See Threats regarding any other contractual relationship should be directed to the Office of the General Counsel.

If the matter involves a Caltech campus purchase order or contract, please contact the Caltech Purchasing hotline at (626) 395-8900. If the matter involves a JPL purchase order or subcontract, please contact the assigned JPL subcontract manager. See Problems regarding any other contractual relationship should be directed to the Office of the General Counsel

Research Related FAQ

When a sponsor wishes to enter into an agreement to fund research at campus or JPL, the appropriate office should be contacted.

  • In the case of campus, the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) should be contacted. OSR will facilitate the researcher and sponsor in establishing the appropriate written agreements for performance of the work.
  • In the case of JPL, the Office of Contracts Management (OCM) should be contacted. OCM will facilitate the researcher and sponsor in establishing the appropriate written agreements for performance of the work.

Caltech has published a guide to sponsored projects. It has a great deal of useful information for both campus and JPL researchers.

Facilities Use Agreements or MOUs are entered into for use of campus facilities for uses such as conferences, athletic events, filming and research; however, research performed by Caltech faculty and staff should be handled by a Sponsored Research Agreement, not a Facilities Use Agreement. Technical Services Agreements are entered into when campus staff or faculty can provide a unique item or perform a unique service, not including research, for an outside entity. The Office of Sponsored Research receives requests for Facilities Use and Technical Services and then ensures that the appropriate agreements are processed.

On campus, many NDAs are reviewed and signed by the Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships. Please contact your OTTCP representative or email More information is available here. At JPL, NDAs are processed by the Office of Contracts Management. If you have additional questions, please contact the Office of General Counsel.

Material Transfer Agreements are managed by the Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships. Please refer all MTA requests to and more information is available here.

Student Affairs FAQ

The Caltech Catalog is the primary source of information for policies and procedures governing Caltech's academic relationship with students. The Student Affairs website also provides easy access to Institute policies that apply to all members of the Caltech community and Student Affairs policies that apply specifically to students, including the following policies: Alcohol and Other Drugs on Campus; Fire Safety; Good Samaritan Policy; Hazing Prevention; Missing Student; Mural Policy in Caltech Houses; and Student Problem-Resolution Process.

For students living in Caltech housing, information applicable policies and procedures are available on the Housing website.

Students should contact the undergraduate Dean or the Dean of Graduate Studies if they have questions related to policies and procedures applicable to students.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) and Caltech policy afford students certain rights as well as establish limitations with respect to student records. More complete information is found in Caltech's Catalog under Access to Student Records.

Any off-campus events where Caltech funds will be used must be registered using the student affairs events registration website. Students participating in house or club activities, including those away from the Caltech campus, may be required to sign a Consent, Release, and Assumption of Risk form. Students should contact the Senior Director for Student Life to obtain this form for a particular event.

Sexual harassment, including sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking that occurs in the context of Caltech education programs and activities is a form of sex discrimination prohibited under Title IX and Caltech policy. Caltech has a legal obligation to take prompt and effective action reasonably calculated to end sexual harassment which it knows or reasonably should know about. This includes taking immediate and appropriate steps to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred consistent with Title IX requirements. Caltech's Title IX Coordinator and Equity Office and Title IX staff are responsible for addressing Title IX concerns and complaints affecting staff, postdoctoral scholars, faculty, students and other members of the Caltech community, including JPL. The Equity Office and Title IX also addresses discrimination based on other characteristic protected under Caltech policy and federal and state law.