Maintaining an Inventor’s Notebook
Maintaining an inventor’s notebook or log costs close to nothing and provides immediate evidence documenting the date of an invention before a patent attorney can be retained to file a patent application.
Ideally, an inventor’s log should be a bound notebook. There are professional Inventor’s Logs commercially available with green grid-lined paper for drawings. You do not need to go out and buy a fancy (i.e.-costly) inventor’s notebook. All that is really needed is a notebook with permanently bound pages. You do not want to use a spiral-bound notebook, looseleaf binders, or legal pads.
I have seen stitched english composition notebooks available at Walmart that are quite satisfactory. If the pages are not pre-numbered, you will want to go through and number them first.
What to Record in the Inventor’s Notebook
The purpose of the inventors notebook is to keep detailed records of when you first came up with your idea. You will want to record a written description of your invention and a drawing. Artistic abilities are not required and a rough hand-drawn sketch that is clear and easily understood (although not very pretty!) will be fine.
As you develop your invention, record your progress. Do not skip any pages and try to limit the amount of white space in the notebook. You do not want it to appear as if you are intentionally leaving space to fill in at a later time. All entries should be made in a chronological order.
It is also a good idea to have two trusted friends sign and date your notebook periodically. It is important that they understand your invention and they sign your notebook indicating that they understand it. For example they may write “read and understood by John Doe, January, 2006”. Preferably, the witnesses will not be a spouse or other close relative, or anyone with a financial interest in your invention.
Maintaining an Inventor’s Notebook is not a Substitute for Filing a Patent Application as Soon as Possible
It is very important to remember that your inventor’s notebook is not a patent application and does not offer any protection other than possibly helping support the date of conception of your idea. A patent application should be initiated as soon as possible if exclusive rights to the idea are desired.