Students required to sign Inventions and Proprietary Information Agreement for UROP

IPIA transfers ownership of some intellectual property to the Institute

Beginning in IAP 2020, students applying to participate in UROPs will be required to sign MIT’s Inventions and Proprietary Information Agreement (IPIA). The IPIA transfers ownership of intellectual property satisfying certain conditions to the Institute.

When research is sponsored by a third-party or uses significant MIT funds and facilities, the IPIA transfers ownership of the research to MIT. Students may read the Technology Policy Guide to identify what constitutes “significant MIT funds and facilities.”

Currently, students participating in UROPs that meet these conditions are required to sign the IPIA, but under the new policy, all students will be required to sign it during the UROP application process.

Siri Nilsson, IPIA and agreement officer at MIT’s Technology Licensing Office (TLO), said in an interview with The Tech, “It has always been required, and it's written into MIT policy that everybody who participates in sponsored research will sign it.”

 “The issue is that not all departments were necessarily aware that it was required, and some departments did not have formal processes in place to systematically collect the signed agreements. It's not a change in policy in any way. It's more of an effective implementation of policy,” Nilsson clarified.

This new policy ensures that the Institute does not violate any federal regulations or other funding requirements. Not having the IPIA filed could result in loss of funding for the research project. Nilsson explained, “Under our funding contracts, … [MIT is] expected to control the disposition of certain intellectual property, so federal regulations actually require MIT to own and to license intellectual property so that that it's publicly disseminated.”

Most UROPs that students participate in do not meet the conditions of the IPIA. In addition, if ownership is transferred to MIT, students can ensure they are credited as inventors, be named on a patent, or earn a portion of the revenue that the Institute may receive from a license agreement.

Michael Bergren, associate dean of academic and research initiatives, told The Tech in an interview, “Undergraduates are an integral part of the MIT research community, so it only makes sense that they also should have the opportunity to to be in the conversation about intellectual property ownership, and I think one good outcome of this change with the UROP system is that they get to have this conversation sooner.”

If students have any questions, they can contact the UROP office and TLO, Bergren added.