Capstone Protocol Overview

Here is guidance for interpreting the university’s intellectual property policy, particularly regarding ownership of undergraduate intellectual property.

Generally, undergraduate students retain ownership rights in any intellectual property (IP) they invent as part of their coursework, specifically including Capstone projects. There are exceptions, including grants or corporate sponsorships that stipulate that students must assign their rights. In these latter cases, students should understand, prior to beginning any work, that they will be required to assign their rights to the University or to a corporate sponsor, and any student who objects to such assignment is to be given the chance to select an alternative project.

If the Capstone students are the only inventors on a particular invention, then they decide how to proceed with protecting and commercializing the invention. Should they wish to proceed independently, the students do NOT need to file an invention disclosure with CRI since it is not University-owned IP.

In some cases, students may seek to transfer ownership and rights in the IP to the University for patent protection and commercialization. In that event, students will connect with the CRI’s commercialization team to discuss commercialization opportunities and to understand the process of assigning rights to the University. If CRI determines that there is sufficient interest in protecting the IP, the students will be asked to submit an Invention Disclosure and assign rights to the University.

If the CRI decides to commercialize the invention and Northeastern receives income as a result, all inventors share as spelled out in the Faculty Handbook (“Patent and Copyright” section). 

For further information or questions, please contact Rhonda Kivlin, Manager of Intellectual Property and Compliance, and have any invention-related funding documents on hand since ownership and obligations with respect to intellectual property are usually governed by the funding agreements.