A laboratory (R&D) notebook
is a complete legal document recording your work . Laboratory
notebooks are vital in proving that you conducted the research
and developed the "value-added." A properly kept laboratory
is invaluable in proving the right to own a related patent, especially
in the United States where patents are assigned on a "first
to invent" basis, rather than on a "first to file"
system that is in effect in other parts of the world. In addition,
for companies that must abide by such regulatory agencies as the
Food and Drug Administration, documentation takes on extra gravity,
since the written history of a regulated product may begin with
its first mention in an R&D notebook. Regulators believe that
a company's ability to deliver defect-free products depends in
part on the thoroughness of its research, as reflected in documentation,
so notebooks may be reviewed in regulatory audits to substantiate
claims and validate manufacturing methods.
Electronic laboratory notebooks are becoming more widely used,
but electronic records are not currently as effective as evidence
of invention (as they can easily altered). Any electronic records
should be printed out and affixed to your laboratory notebook
One thing to remember, the more details you include
in your notebook, the better chance you will have of successfully
proving you were "first to invent" if someone else tries
to patent your invention
Here's a list of some of the key items you
should include in your R&D notebook:
- Pages that are numbered consecutively
- Pages that are permanently bound/sewn to the
book. There should be no loose pages of paper. All data should
be entered directly into your laboratory book.
- Legible entries in ink. Large white spaces should
not be left in the text. Such spaces should be lined through
to avoid misinterpretation.
- Any errors remaining legible should be lined
- Any changes and additions, signed and dated
- Details recorded of pre-experimental work concluded
in relation to the project, including details of any ideas generated
during brain-storming discussions with co-workers.
- Entries in chronological order, without black
pages. To start an entry on a new page, draw a line through
any unused portion of the page. Never tear our or destroy pages.
- Results obtained at a later stage recorded in
date order and cross referenced to an earlier entry.
- Additional information, including electronic
records, such as result print outs, diagrams, and photographs
dated and attached via stapling or adhesive. These should be
signed and dated by you across the document and the underlying
- All non-standard terms, processes, and abbreviations
- A record of equipment details including manufacturer,
model and serial number, and indicate the purpose if not clear.
- A sketch of the equipment set-up used, noting
any variations to the procedure.
- No value judgments regarding your perception
of the protectability of the research.
- The conclusion of each work period or experiment
signed and dated by you, and signed off by a witness. The witness
should be knowledgeable in your area of research but not directly
participating in the project with you.
- Duplicate copies made and kept secure
at a separate location. Ensure that no unauthorized persons