When New Entrepreneurs Navigate Intellectual Property: IP Matters That Really Matter in University-Based Venture Incubators

AuthorAlvin Benjamin Carter III
PositionAlvin Benjamin Carter III is a May 2018 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law, where he served as chief operating officer of the IP CO-LAB (law clinic) and cochair of the Intellectual Property Society.
Published in Landslide® magazine, Volume 10, Number 6 , a publication of the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law (ABA-IPL), ©2018 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.
This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.
When New
University-based venture incubators play a unique role in the entrepreneurial
landscape. The rst-time entrepreneurs that often populate these institu-
tionally funded innovation hubs have a perfect mix of drive, fearlessness,
and support from business faculty and mentors. Coming up with the next
“big thing” is rarely an issue in these spaces, but an issue that often arises
is how to protect that “thing.” The role of university incubators can take on different
forms depending on the institution. This article looks at how new entrepreneurs’ par-
ticipating in one university-based incubator conceptualize intellectual property (IP),
how law clinics can reinforce the importance of intellectual property in these types
of spaces, and how an active university startup ecosystem can raise complex IP own-
ership questions. The author’s role as a member and former chief operating ofcer
of Northeastern University School of Law’s IP CO-LAB (law clinic) and service as
the joint legal ofcer at Northeastern University’s IDEA Venture Accelerator (IDEA)
and Northeastern University’s Center for Entrepreneurship Education (NUCEE)
provide the backdrop for this exploration. These roles kept the author in constant
contact with new university-based entrepreneurs that understood intellectual prop-
erty is important even if the burgeoning business did not know how or why.
Before delving further, it is important to note the differences between uni-
versity-based incubators and other traditional models. Such differences impact
how legal matters are addressed. NUCEE operations director Greg Dalle-
Molle enumerates three differences that are specic to Northeastern’s IDEA,
but may resonate with other university programs:

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