All organisms need to ensure that no DNA segments are rereplicated in a single cell cycle. Eukaryotes achieve this through a process called origin licensing, which involves tight spatiotemporal control of the assembly of prereplicative complexes (pre-RCs) onto chromatin. Cdt1 is a key component and crucial regulator of pre-RC assembly. In higher eukaryotes, timely inhibition of Cdt1 by Geminin is essential to prevent DNA rereplication. Here, we address the mechanism of DNA licensing inhibition by Geminin, by combining X-ray crystallography, small-angle X-ray scattering, and functional studies in Xenopus and mammalian cells. Our findings show that the Cdt1:Geminin complex can exist in two distinct forms, a "permissive" heterotrimer and an "inhibitory" heterohexamer. Specific Cdt1 residues, buried in the heterohexamer, are important for licensing. We postulate that the transition between the heterotrimer and the heterohexamer represents a molecular switch between licensing-competent and licensing-defective states.