Northwestern University

Northwestern University

The INVO Process

The INVO Process

Initial Consultation

You think you have an idea? Please contact us at or (847) 467-2097

We will assign you to a licensing associate who will help you decide the next steps to take. Depending on your specific area and the stage of development of your idea, the licensing associate might recommend adding a business development associate to your invention team to help build a commercialization plan. Sometimes, the idea might be too early a stage to engage the business development group.

Invention Disclosure

To disclose an invention to INVO, please complete the most recent version of the Invention Disclosure Form.  INVO encourages all inventors to watch the "Disclosing Your Invention" video which addresses the most common questions.  If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact your assigned Invention Manager.  If an Invention Manager has not been assigned to you, please contact us at or (847) 467-2097. Once the form is completed and signed by all inventors, please email the disclosure  For more information on the INVO process once you've disclosed your invention, please read this one-pager.

Find more information for Student Inventors

According to patent law, publication or public disclosure of an invention negates the novelty requirement. Therefore, it is important to send your Invention Disclosure BEFORE any public disclosure is made of the invention. Our office is REQUIRED to report all inventions to your research sponsors, whether public or private. 

View a detailed overview of Public Disclosures.

Assessment / Patents

The Innovation and New Ventures Office will:

  1. Review disclosures in consultation with the inventor(s)
  2. Request a literature search from the inventor(s)
  3. Further analyze the disclosure to determine if there is a reasonable business case for proceeding further
  4. Obtain a more in-depth understanding of the potential market for the innovation to help determine subsequent courses of action
  5. Conduct prior art search as part of a preliminary patentability assessment
  6. File a patent application if appropriate criteria and tests have been satisfied.

View a detailed overview of the Assessment / Patents phase.

Determining Inventorship

Patent law defines an inventor as someone who conceives of an original, useful, and non-obvious idea.

Inventorship should not be confused with authorship on a scientific publication. The courts have specifically held that authorship and inventorship have different criteria and are not equivalent.

A person who makes a physical embodiment of the invention, however, may not necessarily be an inventor.

The correct inventors must be named on a patent or the patent can be invalidated.

Inventorship is determined by a patent attorney or agent, who asks all parties to describe their personal contributions to the claimed invention. Often, the attorney will examine notebook pages or other tangible proof of inventorship.


We will promote your inventions to industry/investors.

After consultation with you, the inventor, non-confidential material is prepared for distribution to targeted industry/investors to identify a potential partner for commercialization.

Commercial attractiveness is determined by four considerations:

  1. Technical Risk: Is the patent strong? What is the stage of development? Has the concept been reduced to practice, including for example, prototypes built and used?
  2. Market Risk: How big is the market? Is this a first or second to the market? What is the competition?
  3. Financial Risk: Does the cost of development justify the potential returns? What is the investment environment?
  4. Regulatory/Policy Risk: What are the regulatory hurdles? What is the public opinion?

Technical details of an invention may be disclosed under a confidential disclosure agreement. If further evaluation of the invention by the company, which often involves direct communication with the inventor, leads to an interest for development and commercialization, license negotiations may begin. When additional University research is needed to determine the merit of the invention, a research agreement with an option to license may be appropriate.