How to keep an inventor’s notebook

If I want to keep an inventor’s notebook (or “log book”), what should be in it?

  • The record of the invention should be sufficiently detailed to allow a person who is of average skill in the art to read it and understand the entire invention. Always relate critical details, such as specific frequencies, dimensions, etc. Include sketches, photos, blueprints, printouts, data plots, and other pertinent information.
  • Make sure that these things are integrated into a notebook and organized.
  • Make the disclosure clear, definite and well organized. It should be easy to read and follow.
  • The record should be made contemporaneously with the activities being recorded.
  • Use a bound notebook with numbered pages, always write in ink, strike mistakes out with a single line, do not leave blank pages, and store the notebook in a safe, dry place. Keep your notebook away from food, drinks and your dog.
  • Include records of failures as well as successes. Explain why you think you failed, as well as why you think you succeeded.
  • Have your records read by two other people who are not co-inventors and preferably who do not have an interest in the invention. Each person should state, in writing, that they have read and understood the foregoing disclosure, then sign and date their statements.
  • The general format of the notebook should include a statement of the problem which you are trying to solve, your proposed solution, all problems encountered, your final solution, possible uses, possible modifications, other possible solutions, and any other areas of interest or significance.
  • Avoid statements such as “I thought the obvious solution was to try X, so that’s why we did.” What you think of as being obvious or simply applying a well known solution in a slightly different manner may not be obvious in the eyes of the patent law. Such a statement might possibly be used to defeat any patent which is subsequently granted.
  • Specific guidelines:
    • Include descriptions of all equipment used;
    • Include results, photos, printouts, charts, plots, etc.;
    • Include conclusions, problems encountered, possible modifications and potential applications;
    • State when and where the experiment was carried out;
    • State the names of all people present and all who contributed and participated; and
    • Include test data sufficient to demonstrate that the invention worked.