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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.

Note: 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 out.

  • 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 page.

  • All non-standard terms, processes, and abbreviations defined.

  • 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