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.

The cash income of the TLO this year was $32.0 million—a satisfying amount given current economic conditions. This total compares with $33.5 million in FY2002. As always, most of our income resulted from patents filed and licenses signed 5 to 10 years before. Although this makes us somewhat less sensitive to economic conditions, several of our past start-up companies have encountered tough times, with some going under and others having to negotiate lower licensing fees. Revenue from liquidated equity was only $214K, reflecting a very poor market for IPO's and "fire sale" conditions for mergers.

One hundred and fifty new US patents were issued to MIT in FY2003. We consummated 90 new technology licenses and 24 option agreements. Seventeen of these were to new startup companies—a satisfying number considering the known decrease in new venture investment nationwide but only about two-thirds of our annual average over the past five years. We also granted 42 end-use software licenses and dozens of Open Source software licenses. We have a total of 81 trademark vendors licensed.

With over 650 active technology licenses in house, of which 125 are still-extant startup companies (with equity in about 50 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 (452 in this fiscal year), refilling the pipeline.

TLO staff members 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 policies and practices to the University of Cambridge and other UK universities as part of the CMI program. Staff exchanges between the TLO and the University of Cambridge Technology Transfer Office continue, and as part of this project we have established a new entity, Praxis, providing training seminars for UK university and industry technology transfer professionals.

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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