An invention is “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof…” (35 U.S.C. s. 101). Inventions can be protected by patents (and sometimes, other intellectual property rights). Patents give you the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, importing, or offering your invention for sale. The only way someone can use your invention without subjecting themselves to substantial monetary liability is by obtaining a license to your invention. An invention can range from pharmaceuticals and medical devices, to robotics and software.
If you are an undergraduate or graduate student and your work is not supported by grants, corporate sponsorship, or other funding, the rights of the invention usually belong to you and there is no obligation to disclose or assign to the university. Therefore, you can decide to protect and commercialize the invention yourself, or you can choose to disclose and assign to the university by completing an Invention Disclosure Form. It is important to note that the university does not guarantee that it will proceed with protecting and commercializing the invention, even if you decide to disclose.
Remember to protect your ideas before you publish them! If you publish or otherwise publicly disclose (i.e. a presentation at a conference) before protecting your invention, the right to seek patent protection throughout the world, except for the U.S. and a few other countries, will be forfeited.
Please refer to the Student Handbook (“Copyrights and Patents” section) and the Capstone Protocol Overview for more information. You can also contact the CRI if you still have questions.
The Faculty Handbook and the Student Handbook govern the ownership of intellectual property at Northeastern University. According to the patent and copyright policies contained within these handbooks, the university owns all intellectual property created with the use of substantial university resources.The university does not own the intellectual property of students and/or faculty that were created outside of this definition. Please see the Handbooks for further details.
When we receive your form, we ensure it is complete, including all signatures of Northeastern inventors and a thorough description of the invention. We then conduct our initial review for commercial potential and patentability and make a decision regarding seeking patent protection for the invention. You will be informed of any decision the university makes with respect to the disclosure. Please see more details in steps above.
Yes, within reason, the more information the better. Charts, graphs, PowerPoint presentations, data, photos of prototypes, and papers prepared for submission can all be submitted.
A patent application will be prepared and filed with the appropriate patent office(s) at no cost to the inventors. As inventors, you will play a role in ensuring that the patent application is complete and accurate. This will often involve working with the university’s external patent attorneys. Commercialization efforts will continue in parallel with applying for patent protection. Similarly, as inventors, you will work closely with the CRI in an effort to find industry partners for your invention. Please see more details in the steps outlined on the Inventor Page.
Yes. We strongly encourage you to contact the CRI prior to discussing your invention with a potential industry partner. This can avoid loss of patent rights, uncertainty about data ownership and other potential issues. Both the CRI and the Office of Research Administration handle non-disclosure agreements for the university, depending on the scope of the discussion. We can help you obtain such an agreement in advance of any discussions with outside parties. In addition, the Invention Disclosure Form provides a space for you to enter any potential industry leads who may be interested in your invention.