Technology Licensing Office

The mission of the Technology Licensing Office (TLO) is to facilitate the transfer to industry of technology from MIT, Lincoln Laboratory and the Whitehead Institute, and thereby to benefit the public good through the development and subsequent sale of commercial products. A secondary goal is to generate unrestricted funds to motivate inventors and to support research and education at MIT. The TLO staff of 29 (14 licensing professionals and 15 administrative and support personnel) are responsible for identifying marketable technologies, managing the patenting and copyrighting of these technologies, finding licensees to develop the technologies and negotiating licenses.

Despite the poor economic conditions, the cash income of the TLO this year without revenue from liquidated equity set a record of $32.9 million. As always, much of this income represents patents filed and licenses signed five to 10 years before; thus our total revenue is somewhat less sensitive to current economic conditions than might be expected. Revenue from liquidated equity, in contrast, was very low—only $663,000, reflecting a poor market for IPO's and mergers. Total income, the sum of the two was $33.5 million.

We consummated 112 new technology licenses and 31 new option agreements (a total of 153 agreements, for an increase of over 20 percent in number of agreements from last year.). Twenty-four of these agreements were to new startup companies—a surprising number considering the known decrease in venture capital activity nationwide (This compares to 26 new company agreements in FY2001. We also granted 41 end use software licenses and signed up 13 new trademark licensees in FY2002, for a total of 76 trademarked vendors licensed.

With over 650 active licenses in house and over 150 startup companies extant (with equity in about 60 of them), we can expect that royalty streams will continue to mature and companies will reach equity liquidity, but the timing is unpredictable. Studies by others have shown that the average university license that matures into products takes eight years to do so. The stream of new inventions continues at over 400 per year (484 in this fiscal year, compared to 446 last year), refilling the pipeline.

TLO staff are also active contributors to student activities at MIT. These include judging in the "50K" student business plan contest, guest lectures on patents and licensing in a number of Engineering, HST and Sloan School courses, both undergraduate and graduate, and "open door coaching" for students thinking of starting a business, whether through an MIT license or not.

Members of the TLO are actively involved in disseminating our technology transfer and entrepreneurship processes and practices to University of Cambridge and other United Kingdom universities as part of the CMI program. Staff exchanges between the MIT TLO and the University of Cambridge tech transfer office are underway as part of this project, and we are planning a series of educational seminars for UK universities in the current year.

Senior TLO staff also served pro bono on the boards or senior committees of a number of national, state, and local entrepreneurial and tech transfer organizations.

They have served usually pro bono as advisors to over a dozen university or governmental technology transfer offices in a number of countries and to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, in addition to hosting literally dozens of visits from other such organizations and corresponding company departments.

Lita Nelsen

More information about the Technology Licensing Office can be found on the web at


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