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Invention Management

INVO is responsible for the overall stewardship of the University's intellectual property assets including patent application, prosecution, licensing, compliance, and enforcement

Individuals at Northwestern, including faculty, post-docs and student, are required to disclose many inventions to INVO according to the University’s Patent and Invention Policy. The two main criteria for invention eligibility are: (1) the inventor makes a discovery within the normal field of his or her employment responsibility and activity at the University; and (2) the inventor makes use of University resources. By disclosing it, INVO can protect your invention and comply with sponsored research agreements that require reporting.

Student Inventors are governed by Northwestern’s Patent and Invention policy. To determine if your invention or your involvement in a faculty invention is covered, and to formalize ownership of your invention if it is not, visit our Student Inventors webpage.

INVO can help you with process of formally disclosing your invention, filing a patent application and execute contracts and agreements.

New Online Inventor Portal

Northwestern's Innovation and New Ventures Office has launched a new platform to allow researchers to complete and submit disclosure forms entirely online for inventions, software, copyright, and research tools. The Inventor Portal improves collaboration and enhances efficiency, and replaces the former INVO disclosure forms. Feedback or questions? Contact INVO or access the Inventor Portal FAQ page.

How do I patent my invention?

Use the slideshow below to see the disclosure and patent application process, which includes submitting your disclosure, filing a provisional patent application, filing a non-provisional patent application and responding to actions by the US Patent Office. Please keep in mind that all invention disclosures may not go through this entire process.

Step One: Disclosure your invention formally to INVO In most cases this includes completing the Invention Disclosure Form. If you are disclosing source code, use the Software Disclosure Form; if you are disclosing literary or artistic works, use the Copyright Disclosure form.
Step two: INVO will evaluate the invention Our team will consider a number of factors to determine if a patent will be pursued. Within 60 days,  INVO will decide whether to file a provisional patent application. INVO could also ask for more data or deem it unpatentable.
Step Three: INVO will file a provisional application This is the first step toward a patent. This sets the priority date with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Inventors and INVO have one year from this date to produce data and assess the invention to create the strongest possible non-provisional application.
Step Four: INVO may file a non-provisional application This is the formal filing of an invention with the USPTO; it may mature into an issued patent.
Step Five: USPTO responds Once the non-provisional application is filed, it can take anywhere between 18 months to several years for a response from the USPTO. Possible actions to the application’s claims include rejections, objections or allowances.

For tips, FAQs and more, see the Disclosure Process and Patent Application Process webpages.


INVO handles several types of agreements as part of the technology transfer process. These include the Confidential Disclosure Agreement, option agreement, license agreement and Inter-Institutional Agreement. INVO also works closely with other departments like OSR with regard to corporate collaborative agreements.

All agreements

Resources for inventors