I do not study physics at the university, but I have a very important scientific research. I do not think that a magazine will accept my research, though, because I am not sufficiently specialized in the field. Is there any way to obtain intellectual property for my research without publishing it in a magazine? Or are there any physics magazines for beginners that preserve intellectual property rights?

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    Have you been keeping up to date on the work of others in the field that your research is about?
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 19:35
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    It depends what IP you are interested in. In the US, copyright is by default yours unless stated otherwise by you or transferred. If you are interested in patenting, you need to file a patent before publication. If you are looking into TMs or design patents (I think the German analog is Gebrauchsmuster, but IANAL), again the constraints are different. You really need to identify what you want to protect. If you want to just protect priority, find a timestamped trustworthy server and put it there. I do not comment on other questions such as scientific integrity/avoiding plagiarism etc. Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 20:44
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    If you are outside of the physics community, how are you so sure that you even have a "very important scientific research"? Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 12:35
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    @JohnColeman they may be incorrect, but that really doesn't matter. Plenty of people employed in academia fail to notice that the research they are doing is not very good, and that does very little harm. I'm more than happy that someone not employed in academia has found the energy to get excited about doing physics. Let us hope that we can be welcoming to anyone who makes an attempt to contribute.
    – Clumsy cat
    Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 12:57
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    @Clumsycat This may be a noble (and correct) sentiment but the odds of someone not trained in physics discovering something very important are infinitesimally small. It does happen that someone not fully trained (e.g. an undergraduate student) makes a useful but not routine contribution, but this is exceedingly rare. The OP should realize that, in all likelihood, the work is either incorrect and not even wrong. It doesn’t mean the OP should not try or continue, but it would be deceitful to suggest he or she has a meaningful chance of success. Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 12:04

5 Answers 5


You're worrying about the wrong thing. The danger is not that someone will steal your work, it's that nobody will ever read it. The reason for this is:

  1. In the modern age, it's very easy to prove that you did the work first. Everything is timestamped.
  2. There are more good ideas to work on than anyone has time to pursue. Thinking of a cool idea is the easy part, doing the work to show it's useful is hard.
  3. Lots of not so useful ideas are being pushed too, so filtering through them to find the useful ideas can be hard.

It is very likely that any useful work builds on other work. If that is not true of your work, then honestly, you should probably read a bit more of the literature, because you are likely repeating something that already exists.

When you have identified who's work you are building on, check if they are still alive. If they are not still alive, find out who else has cited/ or built upon their work. That is the person you should contact. Write them a quick email, saying you have written a paper that is related to their work. Tell them a bit about it and attach your paper. This person is in the best place to help you find an appropriate way to circulate your contribution.

For physics, that would probably be the arxiv, and the arxiv describes almost exactly what I have just suggested here; https://arxiv.org/help/endorsement

Edit; Buffy's comment highlighted that I should probably say something about the licences when you do find someone to endorse you on the arxiv. Arxiv requires that you chose one of these licences;

  • grant arXiv.org a non-exclusive and irrevocable license to distribute the article, and certify that he/she has the right to grant this license;

  • certify that the work is available under one of the following Creative Commons licenses and that he/she has the right to assign this license:

    • Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY 4.0)
    • Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (CC BY-SA 4.0)
    • Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0);
  • or dedicate the work to the public domain by associating the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0 1.0) with the submission.

This part will be easy.

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    Note that when you publish at arXiv, you retain almost all rights. You only give up a license for them to make it public in perpetuity. The copyright remains with yourself.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 19:59
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    "It is very likely that any useful work builds on other work. If that is not true of your work, then honestly, you should probably read a bit more of the literature, because you are likely repeating something that already exists." Or you're a crackpot who's pet theory if bogus science.
    – nick012000
    Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 9:34
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    @nick012000 lets take a good faith attitude to peoples contributions. I'm more than happy that someone not employed in academia has found the energy to get excited about doing physics.
    – Clumsy cat
    Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 9:43

So you don't study the subject, and you aren't specialised in the field you are researching, your research is important according to yourself, and you are primarily concerned with getting credit for your results, rather than determining whether your results are correct, new, or important to other people.

These are warning signs. There is a very high chance your research is not correct, not new, or not important; and you almost certainly do not (currently) have the proper knowledge or skills to assess any of those things yourself. If your motivation is to contribute your results to the scientific community, the best way to start would be to get some independent advice from somebody who can assess whether your results are correct, new, and important.

Keep an open mind; find somebody suitably qualified, and ask them if your work has any merit. Don't tell them you are sure it does, because you shouldn't be sure of that in the first place. And if they tell you your work is flawed, believe them, otherwise you will become a crank.

  • The hard part would be finding an expert who is willing to listen. Physics, in particular, has a lot of cranks, and so it'd be quite a task trying to prove to anybody that you're not wasting their time.
    – poncho
    Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 21:54
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    There are of course people like Einstein and Ramanujan who made fundamental contributions despite being outside the academic establishment, so let's not rule it out. And in astronomy, there are many modest contributions from amateurs. But for every Einstein or Ramanujan, there are a thousand people who think they have an idea, when in fact it's either (a) wrong, or (b) unoriginal. Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 22:13
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    @Clumsycat Honestly, I'm not keen on your answer either. I don't claim that the OP is a crank, because being a crank also generally involves disregarding the expertise of genuine experts, and believing that their own lack of education is a benefit or at least not a hindrance. Answers along the lines of "anyone can contribute to physics research!" and "Einstein wasn't an academic either" are well-meaning, I'm sure, but effectively you are bolstering those ideas (devaluing genuine expertise) and encouraging OP down the road to becoming a crank. OP seriously does not need advice about ...
    – kaya3
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 12:39
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    ... intellectual property, because the truth of the matter is that intellectual property protections are for protecting ideas with value, whereas the extreme likelihood is that OP's ideas don't have any value. So the first thing OP must do is establish whether their ideas have value. The purpose of my answer is to inspire humility, not to discourage somebody from being enthusiastic - though let's be honest, OP seems most enthusiastic about having their name associated with a scientific breakthrough rather than doing the work required to actually achieve one.
    – kaya3
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 12:41
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    @Clumsycat Since I am someone with no genuine expertise in physics, and have not claimed any genuine expertise in physics, I think my encouraging deference to "genuine expertise" cannot fairly be interpreted as arrogance.
    – kaya3
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 13:37

In most of the world, what ever you write, provided that it has creative elements, is yours by right. You have all copyrights to it until you give them up.

In fact, part of the normal publishing process is to give up your copyright to a journal.

If you publish it yourself, say on a web site you have, and can claim, "all rights reserved".

That doesn't mean, however, that no one can use or build upon what you write, provided that they cite it.

Devices, as opposed to creative writings and such, may need to be patented for you to keep rights.

However, the rules vary somewhat, so "most of the world" doesn't mean "all of the world".

The only way to be sure that you "can't/won't" be published is to submit a paper for publication and see what happens. Affiliation with a university is not a requirement, nor is the background of the author. Avoid "predatory publishers", however, who will publish anything and take your money to do so. You will need to meet the usual standards of "novelty" and quality and make sure that you can situate your work within the larger scientific body of knowledge with appropriate citation, but that is the case for everyone.

And, it is possible for some to enter into collaborations with people who do publish, provided you can meet them. This will likely result in publication, of course.


What are you trying to achieve?

You say you want to "obtain intellectual property for my research", but why?

And as @RichardHardy points out, your question asks how you can make a contribution, which is entirely separate from obtaining intellectual property (or recognition) in respect of that contribution.

Do you want the kudos that comes from being identified as the originator? Do you want to reach a wide readership? Do you want to exploit the idea commercially? Do you just want to prevent other people exploiting the idea? Or do you just (as the question suggests) want to help in the advancement of knowledge?

Publishing your ideas in a blog, with a copyright notice at the bottom, would protect your IPR. But it wouldn't help you to gain any revenue from your IPR, and unless you find a way of publicising the existence of your blog, there's no guarantee that anyone would read it.


File for a patent at the US Patent and Trade Office if you're concerned that someone might steal your work or monetize on a similar idea before you're capable of doing it.

Note that you can only get a physical component, system, manufacturable product, or process patented. It has to have real-world application and in general solve a problem in a unique way that no other patent accomplishes. An abstract idea or algorithm can not be patented. But a procedure related to that abstraction or algorithm can.

Plants and ornamental design features can also be patented under different applications.

Before filing, make sure that your idea is novel and consider how you will run your business, if it's something you plan to sell to consumers. This will require some research into existing patents. Also consider contacting a registered patent lawyer or representative to help streamline the process.

This is just one solution other than publishing into peer-reviewed journals, and it may / may not apply to you. I'm not professing it's the only solution.

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    "This is just one solution other than publishing into peer-reviewed journals" This is not an alternative to publishing research. Patents and papers serve entirely different purposes.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 19:35
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    @Szabolcs It is an alternative to publishing research; we don't know whether it is a suitable alternative, because we really don't know what the OP is trying to achieve. Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 22:05

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