Record Keeping and Notebook Practices

Your lab notebook is the foundation for a permanent record detailing what was done during the course of a project and what inventions were made and when. These records are a critical element in the patenting process, providing evidence of first-to-invent. While ‘first-to-invent’ status has been subjugated to ‘first-to-file’, it still plays a vital role during court proceedings, if necessary.

Good record keeping should be consistent and complete throughout your research, detailing what was done, the purpose for the work, and the findings.

Records should include dates, all raw data and results of each experiment, as well as the protocols and designs, including descriptions of the calculations, equipment used and any output (charts, photos, etc.). Write down conclusions and the next steps, including plans for future work.

A witness should sign and date each notebook page within one week. The witness should not be directly involved with the work, but they should understand the work being studied.


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