Information for Students

As the office entrusted with the stewardship of the intellectual property created at MIT, the Technology Licensing Office (TLO) often receives inquiries regarding ownership of intellectual property created by students. The policy for ownership of an invention developed by a student is the same as for faculty and research staff. Visit our page on invention ownership to learn more.

Receipt by the TLO of a Technology Disclosure Form will initiate action by the TLO to determine whether patenting (or other methods of protection) and licensing of the technology is feasible. A request for a waiver of MIT's ownership rights in the technology will prompt a discussion about how the invention was conceived.

EXEMPT PROGRAMS

Inventions developed using funds or facilities by students participating in specific programs established to support education in innovation or entrepreneurship might be owned by individual inventors or authors, with some exceptions. These programs may fall under the "Exempt Programs" designation. The Vice President for Research maintains a current list of Exempt Programs as part of its Research Policies and Procedures

However, if you are developing a project in an exempt program which is based on an existing MIT-owned invention, you must inform the TLO and your faculty supervisor, faculty advisor, research advisor, Principal Investigator, or equivalent, and obtain permission or rights from the TLO. Otherwise, any further developments to the invention made or created through the Exempt Program will not be exempt from the “significant use” category. 

HOW DOES MIT TREAT MY THESIS?

MIT’s Policy concerning ownership of copyrights in theses is stated in MIT’s Policies and Procedures and in Faculty Regulation 2.71: “The Institute will retain ownership of the copyrights to theses only if the thesis research is performed in whole or in part by the student with financial support in the form of wages, salary, stipend, or grant from funds administered by the Institute, and/or if the thesis research is performed in whole or in part utilizing equipment or facilities provided to the Institute under conditions that impose copyright restrictions. In all other cases, ownership of a copyright shall reside with the student.”

MIT does not assert rights to your thesis if it was authored without sponsored research funds and without significant use of MIT-administered facilities and funds. If you feel that MIT cannot or should not claim copyright ownership to your thesis, you may request a waiver of Institute copyright for your thesis by submitting a written application to the TLO.  Software code, patentable subject matter, and other intellectual property contained or disclosed in a thesis is subject to MIT’s significant use policy and will be owned by MIT.

In order to keep confidential an invention which might be described in your thesis, a “hold” may be placed on the thesis (making it not publicly available) for 3 months to allow the TLO to review and, if appropriate, prepare a patent application. To request a thesis hold, submit your thesis to the TLO via the invention disclosure form.

Where you retain copyright ownership in your thesis, you must, as condition of a degree award, grant royalty-free permission to MIT to reproduce and publicly distribute copies of the thesis. You must also place the following legend on the thesis title page or page immediately following: 

The author hereby grants to MIT permission to reproduce and to distribute publicly paper and electronic copies of this thesis document in whole or in part.

Where copyright is retained by MIT, students are authorized to post electronic versions of their own thesis, in whole or in part, on the internet. Any further publication in whole or in part shall be made only with MIT’s authorization.  Requests for permission to reuse or republish a thesis should be directed to permissions-lib@mit.edu. Guidance on current copyright procedures is included in the Specifications for Thesis Preparation published each year by the MIT Libraries. 

Inventions and Proprietary Information Agreements (IPIA)

All graduate students, and students participating in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) or certain capstone projects, are expected to sign the Inventions and Proprietary Information Agreement (IPIA). The IPIA effectively transfers ownership of certain intellectual property to MIT (as determined by MIT Policy)  and allows MIT to meet its legal obligations to the supporters of its research. By signing the agreement, you agree to disclose certain intellectual property resulting from this research to the TLO and assign ownership of such intellectual property to MIT. Learn more about those obligations here.

Via the IPIA, and in keeping with MIT’s mission to advance knowledge, the TLO protects this intellectual property and transfers it into society for the public good. Student inventors seeking to commercialize MIT intellectual property on which they are named as inventors can pursue a license through the TLO. If you have any questions regarding the IPIA or the commercialization process, please see this page, or contact the TLO.

Intellectual Property Rights: Navigating MIT Policy

Contact the TLO at tlo-ipia@mit.edu with any questions. We’re here to help.