NAI Spring Meeting 2024: A Convergence of Innovation and Intellectual Property

Apr 22, 2024 | CRI

NAI LogoOn Thursday, April 18, 2024, the Center for Research Innovation (CRI) at Northeastern University proudly facilitated the Spring meeting of the Northeastern chapter of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Themed “Recognizing and Inspiring our Community of Unparalleled Inventors,” this event underscored CRI’s pivotal role in establishing the chapter and its continued commitment to hosting these enriching gatherings. The meeting brought together a diverse group of academics, industry experts, and entrepreneurs, highlighting Northeastern’s longstanding commitment to experiential education and translational research.

The NAI, dedicated to fostering inventorship and entrepreneurship, provides a platform where members from both academic spheres and industry can connect and collaborate. This year’s meeting aimed to empower attendees by sharing crucial insights on intellectual property (IP) management—a vital area for any innovator looking to navigate the competitive landscape of patents and trade secrets.

The session featured two notable speakers: Shawn P. Williams, a materials technologist and Battery Thesis Leader at ReBuild Manufacturing, and David R. Widom, Esq., notable attorney and founder of a tech enterprise.

Shawn P. Williams spoke from his extensive experience in technology development and commercialization, discussing the intricate dance of patent filing and the safeguarding of trade secrets. He emphasized the importance of invention disclosures and the nuanced strategies required to maintain a competitive edge in patenting within broader industrial landscapes.

David R. Widom focused on the legal intricacies of intellectual property from the viewpoint of an entrepreneur and legal expert. He likened the process of securing patents to fortifying a castle, emphasizing the tactical aspects of provisional filings and the necessity of robust protection strategies to secure and expand market presence.

A panel discussion, led by Randall Erb, Associate Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Northeastern, further delved into practical concerns about IP management. Questions regarding where to file patents and how patents are valued in corporate acquisitions highlighted the session. Williams suggested that patent filings should target markets where products will be sold, and operational bases established. Widom, meanwhile, discussed the valuation of patents, particularly pointing out that manufacturing-related patents might be undervalued due to the feasibility of replicating processes through detailed analysis.

Adding depth to the discussion, Vincent Harris, Distinguished Professor and William Lincoln Smith Chair Professor at Northeastern, provided a nuanced explanation of the balance between open academic collaboration and IP protection. He elucidated, “In academia, our first step is often disseminating results through peer-reviewed research. Yet, when there’s a potential for commercialization, we halt and consult with our Center for Research Innovation (CRI) before publishing. This strategic pause allows us to secure provisional patents, which are foundational in protecting the innovation while still fostering an environment of academic freedom. These initial steps not only protect our intellectual property but also set the stage for potential partnerships with major tech companies, who can help bring these innovations to market effectively.”

This year’s NAI chapter meeting not only offered invaluable insights into intellectual property management but also reinforced Northeastern University’s role as a pivotal force in shaping the landscape of innovation and entrepreneurship. The event served as a potent reminder of the importance of strategic IP considerations in today’s fiercely competitive global market.

To learn more about Northeasern’s NAI chapter, click here.

Interested in becoming a member? Click here.

Written by Yash Wadhwa