By participating in UROP research, you may contribute to the development of intellectual property. MIT Policy defines intellectual property as patentable inventions, mask works, tangible research property, trademarks, and copyrightable works, including software. Such forms of intellectual property are further described in the TLO publication, Guide to the Ownership, Distribution, and Commercial Development of MIT Technology.
Generally, MIT owns intellectual property which you develop in either of the following scenarios:
- During a sponsored research project (i.e., a project paid for by the federal government or third-party research contract), or
- Using significant MIT funds or facilities
It is common for UROP students to conduct research under a sponsored research agreement or to otherwise make significant use of MIT-administered funds or facilities.
All UROP students are required to sign MIT’s Invention and Proprietary Information Agreement (IPIA), which transfers ownership of intellectual property developed in Scenarios A or B to MIT. By signing the agreement, you agree to report intellectual property resulting from this research to the Technology Licensing Office (TLO) via an invention disclosure and assign ownership of such intellectual property to MIT. The signed IPIA will only apply to intellectual property developed in the Scenarios A or B.
Any questions you have regarding the ownership of intellectual property should be directed to the TLO at email@example.com. In the event that MIT takes ownership of work you develop in a UROP and the invention is licensed and commercialized by the TLO, you will be entitled to receive a share of MIT’s royalties, if any. If you are seeking to commercialize intellectual property you have developed at MIT, you can pursue a license through the TLO to do so.
Off-Campus Research and Ownership of Intellectual Property
There are circumstances when UROP work needs to take place off-campus, such as fieldwork that supports campus-based research. When UROP research needs to be done off-campus, approval and ongoing supervision from an MIT faculty member is still required. UROP staff can advise on whether research you plan to undertake off-campus is appropriate.
- Research conducted for a private corporation or commercial entity, even a startup, does not qualify as a UROP project. If your UROP work is taking place off-campus and you are asked to sign agreements related to ownership of inventions, you are strongly advised to bring the document to UROP staff in 7-104 for further review before signing and before starting your work.
- Off-campus research (non-UROP). In these circumstances, invention ownership rights are typically determined in accordance with the terms of the applicable written agreement between the student and the off-campus entity. Off-campus research agreements may provide that ownership of inventions by an MIT student resides with an entity other than MIT; these agreements may also determine the ownership of copyrights in original material authored by MIT students doing such off-campus research.
MIT cannot help you negotiate these third-party assignment agreements but can help you understand whether those obligations conflict with your obligations to MIT or your rights to publish your research and advise on next steps. Contact the TLO via firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. The Boston University School of Law also has a law clinic dedicated to serving MIT students on these issues; email@example.com.
Note that MIT would not claim ownership of intellectual property that is not developed with significant use of MIT funds or facilities and such intellectual property is not protected or licensed by MIT.
Protecting and Licensing an Invention
Intellectual property owned by MIT and disclosed to the TLO will be evaluated and, consistent with the judgment of that office, protected via a patent application or otherwise recorded as an MIT-owned software copyright, trademark, mask work or research tool.
TLO will initially cover the patenting or registration costs and attempt to license the invention. As an inventor, you will be entitled to receive one third of the net royalties. Intellectual property which is not MIT-owned may be protected and maintained at your own cost and control.
UROP students interested in patents, intellectual property, and copyright issues may wish to consult the TLO publication, Guide to the Ownership, Distribution and Commercial Development of MIT Technology, and consult with TLO at NE18-501, 617-253-6966 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Direct questions about the IPIA, MIT’s Intellectual Property Policies, and other intellectual property agreements should be directed to email@example.com.
It is not uncommon for UROP students to contribute to research articles. If you plan to publish an article about your UROP research, or discuss your research with a journalist, you must get prior approval from your faculty supervisor. Research sponsors might have the right to review publications produced during a sponsored research project prior to publication, but those manuscripts shall not be restricted from publication.
Contact the TLO (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions regarding these obligations.