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 an Invention Disclosure Form will initiate action by the TLO to determine whether patenting (or other methods of protection) and licensing of the technology is feasible. 


Inventions developed using MIT Funds 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 exixsting 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 “Use of MIT Funds” category. 


MIT’s Policy concerning ownership of copyrights in theses is stated in MIT’s Policies and Procedures 13.1.2  and in Faculty Regulation 2.73: Thesis copyright shall reside with the student as the principal author of the work. 

The student shall recognize contributions from the advisor and any other contributors, in the acknowledgements or other appropriate sections of the thesis. Where contributions rise to the level of co-authorship, the student should discuss with such contributor(s) whether copyright co-ownership of certain sections of the thesis is appropriate. 

The MIT Libraries shall include guidance on current copyright procedures in the Specifications for Thesis Preparation published each year. 

The student must, as a condition of a degree award, grant to MIT a nonexclusive, worldwide, irrevocable, royalty-free license to exercise any and all rights under copyright, including to reproduce, preserve, distribute and publicly display copies of the thesis, or release the thesis under an open-access license. 

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 three 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. See the Office of Graduate Education’s website for more information on requesting temporary holds or other restrictions on thesis publication. 

Thesis hold requests should be directed to the Technology Licensing Office (TLO) when related to MIT-initiated patent applications (i.e., MIT holds intellectual property rights; patent application process via TLO). Requests for a thesis hold must be made jointly by the student and advisor directly to the MIT Technology Licensing Office as part of the technology disclosure process. 

Thesis hold or restricted access requests should be directed to the Office of the Vice Chancellor ( when related to: 

  • Student-initiated patents (student holds intellectual property rights as previously determined by TLO) [up to 90-day hold] 
  • Pursuit of business opportunities (student holds intellectual property rights as previously determined by TLO)[up to 90-day hold] 
  • Government restrictions [up to 90-day hold] 
  • Privacy and security [up to 90-day hold] 
  • Book publication [up to 24-month hold] 

“The author hereby grants to MIT a nonexclusive, worldwide, irrevocable, royalty-free license to exercise any and all rights under copyright, including to reproduce, preserve, distribute and publicly display copies of the thesis, or release the thesis under an open-access license.” 

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 with any questions. We’re here to help.