Protecting Your Inventions Before You Patent

by Thomas Frasher on September 25, 2009

Documenting Inventions
In my last article is wrote that a laboratory notebook is an effective method for ensuring that you protect your intellectual property during development. This article comprises guidelines to help protect the integrity of the contents of your notebooks such that the contents are without reproach.

In patent law it is generally the first to conceive of an idea that is awarded the patent, a properly kept notebook is often the first documented evidence of a concept, development or process.

Generally speaking it is adequate to have a small drawing and some descriptive text to document a concept. The lab notebook aids with extending that concept in a protective manner.


1. Take your notes contemporaneously with your development, as close to the time of your research or lab work as possible.

2. Remember that you are working to make sure that someone with your skill level can recreate what you’ve done, solely from the notes in the notebook.

3. Very few people organize their notebooks efficiently, with the possible legal outcome in mind. Remember: the lab notebook is your first line of defense.

4. If you need to have a blank page for some reason, draw a diagonal line and write “Void” on the line, initial and date the line. It is best however to avoid blank pages.

5. VERY IMPORTANT: IF you make a mistake, do not scribble over it, draw single line through the error and initial and date the line. you can do this for large areas by lining through at a diagonal and, again initialing and dating the line. At no time is it acceptable to remove any part of or all of a page. This will call into question the contents of the notebook as a whole.

6. When spanning multiple pages use “(Continued)” or “(Cont)” at the top of the page to denote a continuation from the previous page. If you are continuing something from an earlier page use “(Continued from page #)” or “(Cont from #)”.

7. Avoid fragmentary notes, make sure you use as complete a description as you can.

8. All entries are either in ink or printed and attached to the page with tape or glue. If attaching a page to the notebook, draw a line across the boundary of the attachment and the page and initial and date the line, this ensures that the date of the attachment is in congruence with the dates in the notebook.

9. Your writing must be legible. If someone else can’t read it, it must be redone. If it is illegible it might as well not exist. Remember you are writing to the future in your notebook, it must be clear.

What To Put In the Notebook:

1. Table of Contents. Leave room at the front of the notebook if there isn’t an explicit table of contents. Keep this up to date. This helps with finding information quickly in the event of a search through multiple notebooks (a very common occurrence).

2. Include a list of your assumptions as you begin.

3. Include any formulae or calculations that are important to your work.

4. Data, drawings, sketches, processes, procedures, notations, corrections, part numbers, assemblies, code snippets, tests, test results, etc. In General your thinking.

All of the above items are relatively easy to maintain once you get the mindset that you are writing to the future, in addition to the present.

Go get a notebook, set down and innovate, create and invent! It’s fun!

Image Courtesy: Paul Watson on Flickr

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