Software Licensing, including Open
The MIT Technology Licensing Office assists inventors and
authors in licensing software under a variety of distribution
strategies. In addition to licensing software code for commercial
development and distribution, the TLO licenses research code
for non-commercial and/or academic purposes and assists authors
in offering software via open source licenses. If you have
software that you believe incorporates a patentable process,
you should complete the
Invention Disclosure Form* as to the patentable process
and fill-out the MIT
Software Code Disclosure Form* as to the software code.
Inventors of the process need not be (and likely are not) identical
to the authors of the code. Each Disclosure will be assigned
its own case number, though they will likely be licensed together.
The TLO will discuss licensing strategies with the principal
inventors and authors of the software.
The Disclosure Forms should be filled out completely, including
sponsorship information, a description of the software and original
signatures. If both Forms are used, they should reference each
other in the description
of the software.
If you are from Lincoln Laboratory, use the
Laboratory Software Code Disclosure Form and the Lincoln
Laboratory Invention Disclosure Form for the related patentable
The MIT Technology Licensing Office receives many requests
from MIT faculty and staff regarding distributing software via
an open source license, without fee or royalty. The TLO supports
this approach if the authors of the software feel it is an appropriate
distribution method for the software in question, provided that
there is not an active sponsored research grant that would prevent
such distribution and such distribution has been approved by
the head of the relevant department, laboratory, or center.
The authors must complete the
Software Disclosure Form for any software that is to be
released under an open source license.
Before choosing to distribute via open source, the authors
should confirm that any sponsors of the software will tolerate
an open source distribution model. Further, if your software
contains other “open source” or “free”
software, or any software that you have downloaded from or have
been provided by a third party, you must understand the license
terms under which that software has been provided to you. Certain
license terms have specific restrictions. The TLO can assist
in understanding the different terms. Once third party rights,
if any, are resolved, there are numerous open source license
models from which to choose. “Approved” open source
licenses are those approved by the Open
Source Initiative (“OSI”), however, any license
that releases the source code without a required payment is
an open source or, sometimes called “shared source,”
license. A complete list of OSI approved licenses can be seen
Generally, M.I.T. recommends either the BSD license or the GPL
or LGPL licenses. The TLO will discuss open source licensing
strategies with the authors.
Once the TLO has approved release of the software via an open
source license, you may then post or distribute your software
under such open source license. It is up to you to read the
instructions related to the specific license and to provide
the appropriate copyright/license text with your postings. Please
keep the TLO informed of the website URL at which your software
If you are disclosing other copyrightable materials (such as
video, music, maskworks, or designs), please use the
Software Code Disclosure Form or the
Lab Software Disclosure Form. Contact the Technology Licensing
Office with any questions.
* All MIT inventors must print out and sign the completed form.
Please forward the printed form to our office to complete the
submission process. Electronic submissions will not be accepted
by the TLO.