November 16


License, Licensee, & Licensor

License, Licensee, and Licensor are legal terms that are often used by lawyers. In this post, we will explain these terms. These terms can be found in Intellectual Property contracts, in Tort Law, and elsewhere.

In the Legal English lexicon, we find many word pairs ending in 'ee' and either 'or' or 'er' (such as licensee & licensor, offeree & offeror, or employee & employer). Unsurprisingly, these words can be very useful for lawyers, when we need to be very clear when we are discussing terms. (We discuss more of these in our courses, such as Elemental Legal English.)

License, Licensee, & Licensor

License, Licensee, & Licensor


A license is permission to do something that would normally be prohibited.

Some licenses are given by a government agency (e.g., drivers license, marriage license, license to carry a firearm, business license), and others by private entities (e.g., for the use of land, or the use of a patent or trademark).

Intellectual Property: License

In Intellectual Property Law, a license allows the licensee to use the patent, copyright, trademark, or other intellectual property of the licensor. 

A Licensing Agreement is a contract for the use of intellectual property. To learn more about Licensing Agreements, check out this from Investopedia.

Also, see this article from Wiki Creative Commons, which includes considerations for licensees and for licensors. 


A licensee is a person or party who was has a license. 

According to Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute:

Licensees have been granted limited rights or permissions by a licensor in the form of a license. Licenses enable licensees to do something that would otherwise be legally prohibited. The rights a license grants to a licensee are limited by the authority of the licensor to confer such rights. That is, a licensee may not receive greater rights in a license than a licensor has the ability to bestow. Some examples of licensees include individuals with a driver’s license, individuals licensed to practice medicine, and an individual granted license by a landowner to store goods on the landowner’s land. Licensees may enter into a contractual relationship with a licensor to receive a license.

Tort Law: Licensee

In tort law, a licensee is distinct from an invitee or a trespasser. The landowner has a different duty of care to these different categories of people on their land.


The licensor is the person or party that grants a license to the licensee.

Related Terms

Licensed Premises 

A licensed premises refers to a bar or restaurant that has a liquor license. 

In the United States, a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol needs to have a liquor license. The licensor is usually an agency of the state government. Accordingly, that agency (or local police) may visit the bar or restaurant to check if the liquor laws are being complied with. 

Revocable or Irrevocable

Some licenses are revocable (the licensor can change their mind and revoke or remove the license). Other licenses are irrevocable (the licensor cannot revoke or remove the license).

Driver's License

Probably one of the most common type of license is a driver's license. The state licenses (gives permission) for the licensee (the person with the license) to drive on public roads.  

In the United States, this is often used as the primary form of identification (in fact, the same department of motor vehicles will also issue identification cards to non-drivers.)

Licence vs. License

In British English, they spell the noun as 'licence' and the verb as 'license' 

In American English, we spell both words as 'license'. 

Have you come across these words already?

Have you used them yourself?

Any questions about these terms?

Comment below!


Legal Terms

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