Who Owns an Invention?
MIT owns inventions made or created by MIT faculty, students, staff, and others participating in sponsored research projects or in MIT programs using significant MIT funds or facilities or those inventions developed pursuant to a written agreement with MIT. When in doubt, it is best to contact the TLO to discuss ownership of inventions.
MIT Inventions and Proprietary Information Agreement
The Inventions and Proprietary Information Agreement (IPIA) form transfers ownership of intellectual property to MIT as determined by MIT Policy and must be signed by all persons participating in research at MIT. This form is required for MIT’s compliance with federal law and with our industrial and foundation funding contracts. The Technology Licensing Office (TLO) is responsible for retaining current and accurate IPIAs on file for all appointees. If you have any questions regarding the IPIA, please learn more on the IPIA page, learn how to submit an IPIA form here, or contact the IPIA group at the TLO.
Assertion of Ownership
MIT asserts ownership over an inventor's intellectual property in limited circumstances. MIT Policy defines "Intellectual Property" as inventions, copyrightable materials, computer software, semiconductor mask works, tangible research property, and trademarks. Per the IPIA, MIT would only own "Intellectual Property" which is made or created by MIT faculty, students, staff, and others participating in sponsored research projects or in MIT programs using significant MIT funds or facilities. In addition, those inventions developed pursuant to a written agreement with MIT, may also be owned by MIT.
MIT does not otherwise claim ownership of copyrights in scholarly books or textbooks, articles or other scholarly publications, popular novels, poems, musical compositions, or other works of artistic imagination. See Section 2.1.4 of the Guide to the Ownership, Distribution, and Commercial Development of MIT Technology for more information.
Inventors may seek a formal statement from the TLO that MIT does not assert ownership over a given invention. Learn more about that process here. Please use the online disclosure form to submit invention disclosures or to request a waiver of MIT's ownership rights.
Ownership of inventions made while consulting
MIT does not assert ownership of inventions which are not developed pursuant to a sponsored research project or other agreement, or with significant use of MIT-administered funds or facilities. You should make the nature of your assignment obligations to MIT clear to any third party for whom you expect to consult. It is important to clearly define the scope of work within consulting contracts to minimize any conflicts with your research commitments at the Institute. MIT will not negotiate any consulting agreements on behalf of any faculty, student, or staff member; however, any questions regarding the Institute's policies may be directed to the TLO. See MIT’s Consulting Agreements Policy.
Inventions developed using funds or facilities by students participating in, and solely in conjunction with, 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. 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. See MIT’s Significant Use Policy.
Any MIT employee or student may ask to assign their personally owned invention to MIT. If the TLO accepts the invention, it will be handled in the same manner as other MIT inventions, with the usual royalty-sharing arrangements.
The TLO cannot accept assignment of inventions from alumni or others outside current MIT students and employees except as pure donations, with no royalty sharing. Because of resource limitations for marketing inventions, donations can be accepted only rarely.
MIT’s policy on ownership of inventions appears in Article 13 of the Institute’s Policies & Procedures. The complete policy statement is set forth in the Guide to the Ownership, Distribution and Commercial Development of MIT Technology.