The desire to have impact through research and innovations is a universal theme at Northeastern University. The CRI is your dedicated partner in this pursuit, offering strategic intellectual property protection, venture creation resources and access to corporate relationships. This diagram summarizes the steps the CRI takes to translate the university’s groundbreaking work into real-world solutions.

Process Road Map



Woman in lab

A disclosure is a detailed description of an invention that begins the process of protecting your research at Northeastern. Disclosures outline the novel, non-obvious, and useful features of inventions and are used to assess patent and commercial viability.


Disclosing, prior to working with the CRI, mobilizes university resources for protecting innovation and stimulates funding opportunities for accelerating your future research. Disclosing through the CRI broadens the horizon of academic and industrial collaboration and empowers the transformation from innovative idea to societal, worldwide impact.


The time to disclose is when your research has generated actionable data. It is critical to disclose prior to publishing, presenting at conferences, or meeting with industrial partners. Publishing prior to disclosing seriously jeopardizes patent and commercial viability.
PROGRAM Spotlight


The Spark Fund helps Northeastern researchers bridge the gap between promising lab results and demonstrating a commercially viable prototype. Our grants and programs catalyze state-of-the-art technologies, advancing Northeastern inventions through prototyping, validation, and industry input.


What is an Invention?

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. 

I'm a student and I think I invented something. What do I do?

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. 

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. 

Do I have to fill out an invention disclosure form?

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. If substantial university resources were used in the discovery and development of the invention, then you are required to submit an invention disclosure. 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. 

Can I submit additional information on the disclosure form?

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.

What happens if the university proceeds with filing for patent protection?

A patent application will be prepared and filed with the appropriate patent office(s) at no cost to 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.  

What if I want to talk about my ideas with my potential industry partner? Can the CRI help me with this?

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 NU-RES 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.