We strongly recommend that all Stevens employees involved in Research maintain laboratory notebooks. Here are some suggestions for keeping laboratory notebooks.
Portions of these guidelines were obtained from the University of California, San Francisco, and are reprinted and distributed with the permission of UCSF Office of Technology Management. We fully acknowledge and thank them for their publications on the matter. We found the UCSF website to be a tremendous resource for new inventors.
A U.S Patent is granted to the inventor who was the first to conceive the inventions. Hence, a properly maintained inventor's laboratory notebook is often the first evidence of conception.
- When properly kept, a laboratory notebook is important because it establishes a permanent record which can be referred to in the future to prove what was done during the course of a project and, particularly, what inventions were made and when.
- Assuming that an invention is made during the course of a research project, the date of "conception" and "reduction to practice" may be important. Generally, a sketch and a brief written description are sufficient to establish conception. Reduction to practice can be established only by the actual construction and successful testing of a device incorporating the invention.
- Even if the subject matter of a research project isn't made on the basis of a patent application, it can be important to prove what was done. For example, someone else might obtain a patent on subject matter reduced to practice during the course of the work. In patent infringement litigation which may follow, the earlier laboratory work can establish a good defense. In another situation, it may be desirable to prove whether or not an invention occurred in the course of a specific research project.
- From a legal standpoint, a laboratory entry should be competent to prove certain facts, such as the conception of an idea, the testing of a model, and the results of the test. It is possible for a laboratory entry to be so vague and lacking in clarity that it isn't competent to prove such matters. For example, the entry might be so fragmentary that it is meaningless by itself, and can only be made intelligible when it is interpreted by the author. Such an entry is very little better than ordinary recollection without the aid of a document. Also, entries can be kept in such a manner that it is difficult to determine when the entry was made. Also, it may be an entry known only to one party; that is, not witnessed or explained to anyone else who is available to serve the essential function of corroborating witness.
- The ideal notebook is one having all of the entries in ink or other permanent medium, using the standard laboratory book having permanent pages. All of the entries are identified with respect to the particular project for which the work was done. The entries include all formulae or diagrams and sketches of circuits and equipment which were considered during the project, including the ones actually built and tested. Diagrams and sketches should be accompanied by explanatory memoranda sufficient to identify and explain the subject matter. Another investigator, by looking over these entries, should be able to determine the nature of the project, when it was commenced, what ideas were considered during the project, the compounds made or circuits and equipment actually built and tested, the results of the tests, the dates with respect to all of the above, and the final conclusions.
Notebook entries should adhere to the following rules:
1. Make in permanent medium.
2. Use consecutive pages.
3. Date entries.
4. Identify subject matter.
5. Include sketches, diagrams, etc.
6. Explain sketches, etc.
7. Photos, drawing, etc., should be identified and permanently attached.
8. Avoid erasures.
9. Don't change entries; make new entry.
Periodically have someone look over entries and witness same by applying signature and date.