Documenting Inventions

by Thomas Frasher on September 14, 2009

A few weeks ago I wrote a series of articles on protecting your intellectual property. Today’s article is the beginning in a series that discusses how to protect your inventions before the patents are filed.
Long ago simply keeping the invention to yourself was adequate protection, this is no longer the case. If you can create an invention, some one else can create the same thing with the same amount of effort. In the end it all comes down to when you invented it and your ability to document when you created your invention.
The main method of protection to use when inventing is the laboratory notebook. There are many vendors for laboratory notebooks on the internet, prices range form a few dollars a piece to well over $100 (listing at the end of the article). This is not a place to save money, nor is it a place to break the bank.

Important Qualities in Lab Notebooks

  • Hard bound – This is more for the protection of the contents of the notebook.
  • Stitch Bound – It is important that the notebook show any evidence of tampering.
  • Preprinted sequential pages numbers.
  • Embossed book numbering.
  • Preprinted grids or lines on each page
  • Signature and confirmation block at the bottom of the page. It is important that each page has a signature block for counter signature.

Lab Notebook Rules

  • Only one lab notebook open per person at a time.
  • Lab note books are filled out contemporaneously, any gaps in time will cause questions t if a review is necessary.
  • A list of notebooks and who they are issued to must be kept.
  • Every pages must be signed and dated.
  • If you need to attach a printout to any page, use tape to affix the attachment to the page, then draw a single line that traverses from the attached page to bound page. Signed and date on the line. Any signature without a date is invalid.
  • No skipped pages. This is very important, any gaps, as in #2 above will create questions if a legal review is necessary.
  • Lab notebooks must be stored securely, remember, this is the history of your invention.
  • One final guideline – Start writing in your lab notebook early. In a legal conflict the earliest date wins.

What Goes in a Lab Notebook?
The simple answer to this question is “everything”. Everything that is that can be attributed to the invention you are working on. And several inventions can share a lab notebook.

What Does Not Go in a Lab Notebook?
Non-project related data – don’t write a grocery list in the book.

Partial List of Lab Notebook Suppliers:

For documenting your inventions, grab a good notebook, get a good pen, and start writing. More next week on the maintenance and upkeep of your lab notebook.

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