(from a letter to the R&D Dept.)
Documenting inventions and innovations is simple and straightforward. Having things documented can save a patent from being declared void, can be a source of information in later research and can help other researchers understand, use and improve your invention.
In Canada and the United States we usually follow a first-to-file rule at the patent office, but some patents have been overturned and granted to other parties based on dated lab books and invention documentation during the “interference process”. Now isn’t that a powerful statement to make about the scribbling of an engineer with poor penmanship! So one company files the patent, but another says “we have a note in a lab book that shows we invented it first!” Keep notes (with dates)!
So how do we suggest you keep these notes?
• We have a bunch of hard-spine notebooks in the storage room from the stationary store.
• Please check that you take a book with numbers on each page
• Follow the guidelines below
• Full books should be given to your manager
• The I.T. group can install a program on your computer called blogger.
• You basically type in your ideas and activity for that day into a web page. This becomes searchable immediately and will allow others to comment on your work and hopefully improve on your ideas.
• A digital snapshot of your work is stored at the end of the day in the backup program, and we always have last week’s information if there is a catastrophic loss of information.
• Follow the guidelines below
• Please review the printouts of your digital work
Guidelines of types of notes:
1. Do it daily (this can prove diligence in many cases which is an important financial and legal quality)
2. Use the system to record a concept, drawing, purpose, description, data collected etc.
3. Each entry needs to be dated and continued page to page (don’t jump around pages)
4. Write from the upper left side of the open book to the lower right side (standard European way) – please don’t try to be clever on us with Leonardo Da Vinci backward writing
5. Use ink (preferably not invisible ink!)
6. Do not erase or white-out anything (we will actually be checking this on a regular basis)
7. If there are blank spaces between dates and ideas, etc. draw a line through them so nothing can be put in that spot at a later date
8. A certain amount of neatness counts, but it’s more important to capture everything in some organized fashion
9. If you have to glue some data or a picture in, do it on a full page with no writing under it. Refer to the drawing or data in some way explaining it, close by the pace where it is glued.
10. A big data dump needs to be stored electronically, and some sample data needs to be printed out
11. Tough part: all entries need to be signed and dated and witnessed by at least two people at the time they are written. The witness should not be involved in the invention process. If you can’t do this daily, at least have these notes read and witnessed weekly.
12. Take your notes, during or shortly after you are doing something, making sure there is enough time before you leave for home.
Other stuff that needs to be recorded
While inventors are busy inventing, you are not off the hook either. In addition to making sure the note taking process is going smoothly, that witnesses are available, and inventors have enough time to write in their books or blogs, you need to collect a few other things to support these ideas, inventions, and research:
• Project files and other planning documents, showing activities, tasks and people, meeting minutes and project reports
• Documents describing project objectives , the problems to be solved and discussions of unexpected obstacles encountered
• Photographs, notebooks, drawings, etc.
• Prototypes, physical samples, records of trial, test records, protocols and results
• Analytical results, quantitative measurement data and results of analytical and/or statistical analysis
We have no lack of space. Everything needs to be documented. If it isn’t it’s just like if it doesn’t exist. The documentation needs to be put into the database engine.
At Quarter End you need to write-up a few paragraphs about the materials you have stored to support inventions and research (that no project or patent has claimed) and give them to the person appointed by the CFO for the tax return and patent filings. This will mean that useful information will not be lost when only one person forgets about them! … only when everyone forgets.