13.1 Intellectual Property

This policy was last updated January 25, 2023. See the update history page for more information.

MIT is committed to generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges. We believe this commitment helps meet MIT’s goal of global impact. This policy enables MIT intellectual property to be made widely available through a variety of means—including traditional commercial licensing and granting open access permissions—and sharing licensing proceeds with the inventors, authors, or contributors who generate such intellectual property. 

In general, the federal Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 requires that universities receiving federal funding for research own patentable inventions conceived or first actually reduced to practice in the performance of such research. In addition, certain federal regulations require that the government receive rights to software and data created pursuant to federally funded research. 

In addition to the federal government, other research sponsors (e.g., companies, foundations) typically require MIT to (a) report patentable inventions and copyrightable works that result from the use of such sponsor’s funds; (b) secure legal protection for such intellectual property or, alternatively, commit to open access principles of dissemination; and (c) make such intellectual property available for licensing, or ensure its availability through open access channels, all of which MIT is best positioned to do when MIT owns the intellectual property. 

Finally, MIT owns the intellectual property that results from MIT resources and opportunities.

Decisions about the protection and dissemination of MIT Intellectual Property is handled by the MIT Technology Licensing Office (TLO), an office within the Office of Strategic Alliances and Technology Transfer (OSATT), with appropriate consultation with counsel, inventors, authors, or contributors.

MIT’s President appoints membership to the Committee on Intellectual Property (CoIP). The CoIP recommends Intellectual Property policies (the “Policy”). The Vice President for Research chairs the CoIP and is responsible for the implementation and administration of this Policy.

13.1.1 Definitions

Exempt Programs means those programs identified by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Intellectual Property (“IP”) means patentable inventions, copyrightable works (including software and mask works), Materials, trademarks and Supporting Information.

IPIA means an MIT Inventions and Proprietary Information Agreement.  

Materials means items and information created, collected, developed, derived, or obtained in the course of MIT research (for example, audio-recordings; certain datasets; specifications; biological specimens; microchips; circuits; devices; and chemical samples).

MIT Funds means discretionary funds, gifts (including in-kind donations from third parties, such as equipment), grants, consortium or sponsored funding (including a sub-award) that are (a) given or granted to MIT; (b) pursuant to a contract; (c) administered by MIT; or (d) granted by MIT for use by researchers in the conduct of research. For clarity, funding that is provided to MIT (whether via a gift contract with MIT or otherwise), even if specifically designated for a particular researcher at MIT, constitutes MIT Funds.

Required IPIA Signatories means employees (including temporary employees), faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral associates, fellows, visitors, research affiliates, staff affiliates (where appropriate), contingent workers, and contractors at Lincoln Lab and—in certain circumstances only—undergraduates. See Guiding Principles Regarding Student IP Rights.

Supporting Information means any and all records, memoranda, notes, schedules, plans, or other documentation and information that describe or support IP. 

13.1.2 Intellectual Property Owned by MIT

MIT owns IP generated by one or more of the following:

  1. Using MIT Funds;
  2. In the performance of a Required IPIA Signatory’s MIT employment;
  3. In the performance of an MIT collaboration, research or other sponsored agreement;
  4. For Required IPIA Signatories who are not employees, faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral associates or fellows, as a result of research or educational opportunities made available by or at MIT (collectively, an “MIT Opportunity”).

13.1.3 Intellectual Property Not Owned by MIT

MIT does not own the following IP, unless otherwise stated below:

  1. Coursework generated by MIT students (except coursework generated by students taking part in certain capstone courses such as Beaver Works or UROPs for credit).  
  2. Copyright in student theses.
    1. However, as stated in the Rules & Regulations of the Faculty, Section 2.73, students must grant MIT a license to their thesis as a condition of receiving their degree.
    2. Note that patentable inventions, software, and Materials described in the student thesis are, subject to a separate exception set forth in this Section 13.1.3, owned by MIT.
  3. IP generated from participation in MIT sponsored hackathons.
  4. IP generated from the use of MIT maker spaces.
    1. However, MIT owns IP generated from (a) using MIT maker spaces to build upon or improve existing MIT-owned IP or (b) using MIT maker spaces for projects that are not separate and distinct from the scope of research being performed using MIT Funds or through another MIT Opportunity.   
  5. IP generated from participation in Exempt Programs if participants receive advance approval from the Executive Director of the TLO.  
  6. Copyright in creative literary works such as textbooks, manuscripts, books, scholarly works, and publications, unless MIT has specifically commissioned a particular work to be written.
    1. Note that patentable inventions, software, and Materials described in the creative literary work are, unless subject to a separate exception set forth in this Section 13.1.3, owned by MIT.  
    2. On a case-by-case basis, particularly when works are the result of collaborative projects, MIT may request a right from the authors to use such works for research, teaching, and educational purposes.  
  7. Non-literary creative works (for example, artwork, musical scores), unless MIT has specifically commissioned a particular work to be created.
    1. Ownership of images taken of MIT-owned items (for example, equipment, research outcomes) may be determined on a case-by-case basis.
    2. On a case-by-case basis, particularly when works are the result of collaborative projects, MIT may request a right from the authors to use such works for research, teaching, and educational purposes.  
  8. Teaching materials (for example, lecture notes, syllabi, non-third-party images created for a class, presentations).
  9. Open Learning, Executive Education, and MIT Professional Education content, except that MIT owns the recording of such content.
    1. Note that ownership of this content may be otherwise agreed-to in writing between MIT and the author.

This list may not cover every circumstance. Any questions concerning ownership of IP should be directed to the TLO at tlo@mit.edu.

13.1.4 IPIA and Assignment

Required IPIA Signatories must sign the IPIA. The IPIA is managed by the TLO and may be changed at the TLO’s discretion. Notwithstanding the obligation for Required IPIA Signatories to sign the IPIA, Required IPIA Signatories acknowledge that they are bound by this Policy by using MIT Funds, accepting or continuing MIT employment, participating in performing an MIT collaboration, research, or other sponsored agreement, or by taking advantage of an MIT Opportunity, and each Required IPIA Signatory acknowledges that they hereby irrevocably assign all right, title, and interest in and to the IP described in Section 13.1.2 above (including but not limited to patent applications and patents which may issue from such IP), effective as of their first date of the use of MIT Funds, MIT employment, participating in performing an MIT collaboration, research or other sponsored agreement, or taking advantage of any MIT Opportunity, whichever occurs first, regardless of whether they execute or executed an IPIA.

13.1.5 Technology Disclosure Obligations

Inventors, authors, and contributors are required to promptly disclose all IP owned, either in whole or in part by MIT, to the TLO. Details on submitting disclosures can be found at Submit Your Disclosure.

13.1.6 Licensing of Intellectual Property and Revenue Sharing

The TLO is responsible for managing and licensing MIT-owned IP. See the TLO website

When revenue is received in exchange for licensing MIT-owned IP, the TLO distributes that revenue after all TLO operational and patent expenses are reimbursed, among (a) inventors, authors, and contributors of such IP (as applicable); (b) joint owners of the IP (as applicable); (c) relevant MIT departments, labs, and centers; and (d) the MIT General Fund to be used for educational and research purposes in an apportionment further described here. The apportionment may be adjusted on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the Provost upon recommendation by TLO.

13.1.7 Return of MIT-Owned Intellectual Property to an Inventor or Author

Inventors and authors of MIT-owned IP may request that MIT assign its ownership interest in such IP back to such inventors or authors (“Returned IP”). Any such request should be made to the TLO. MIT may grant the request if such assignment (a) is legally permissible; (b) is consistent with MIT’s obligations to third parties; (c) does not present a conflict of interest; and (d) would enhance the possibility of the IP benefitting the public. 

In every case of Returned IP, (i) MIT reserves for itself and all other non-profit research institutions a royalty-free, non-exclusive, irrevocable right to practice the Returned IP for research, teaching, and educational purposes and (ii) if the Returned IP was generated with federal funding, the assignment will be subject to the applicable government rights to use such Returned IP and compliance with all other applicable laws and regulations.

Any costs related to the protection of any such Returned IP (for example, the cost of patent maintenance or prosecution) shall be the responsibility of the inventors or authors, unless otherwise agreed with the TLO.

If the Returned IP is a patentable invention and was generated with federal funding, the inventors shall comply with all laws regarding the patentable invention and any additional requirements imposed by the federal government. Information about the process for inventors to request that MIT support a request to the federal government to effectuate assignment to the inventors can be found here.  If the Returned IP was funded by another organization, the inventors shall comply with applicable terms and conditions, if any.

13.1.8 Intellectual Property and Conflict of Interest Policies

To the extent Required IPIA Signatories have consulting privileges (see Section 4.5 Outside Professional Activities, and this website Outside Professional Activities) or engage in any outside professional activities (including externships and internships), the Required IPIA Signatory must ensure that any terms of their consulting or other agreements with third parties that relate to IP do not conflict with a Required IPIA Signatory’s commitments to MIT under this Policy. Each Required IPIA Signatory should make the nature of their IP obligations to MIT clear to any third party with which they are engaged. See Section 4.4 Conflict of Interest. Questions concerning the Required IPIA Signatory’s IP obligations to MIT may be directed to the TLO at tlo-ipia@mit.edu. MIT will not negotiate any consulting agreements on behalf of any Required IPIA Signatory.  

The scope of the consulting services must be separate and distinct from the scope of the Required IPIA Signatory’s MIT research commitments.

Required IPIA Signatories should not advise third parties with which they have consulting arrangements on strategy concerning patentable inventions where such strategy is potentially adverse to MIT.

Employees who assist on matters involving private entities interested in sponsoring research at MIT or optioning or licensing MIT-owned IP may not have any financial or personal interest in such private entity.

13.1.9 Policy Interpretation and Administration

Matters arising from the interpretation or administration of this Policy will be resolved by the IP Policy Committee (the “IPPC”), a sub-committee of the CoIP, which may seek advice from the Office of the General Counsel. The IPPC will also make recommendations to the CoIP concerning the application of this Policy. Specifically, disputes concerning accurate inventor, author, and contributor identification of MIT-owned IP that remain unresolved by the TLO will be escalated to the IPPC, for resolution in consultation with the Office of the General Counsel.