students

How a Laboratory Notebook Can Protect Your Intellectual Property

For students who aim to become laboratory scientists or embrace other positions within the biomedical field, protecting one’s research and experimentation is vital. In an age when it’s never been easier to share information and refrain from attributing creations to their rightful owner, it’s perfectly understandable that you’d be concerned about safeguarding your original ideas. Ultimately, that could come down to the security of the lab or your ability to distinguish trustworthy individuals in your personal or professional life. But did you know that your choice of scientific lab notebook might make a big difference?

In 2016, there were 411 million metric tons of paper and cardboard produced worldwide. Just some of that paper and cardboard is used to create the laboratory notebooks that students and scientists utilize every day. But these notebooks can do more than allow you to keep track of pertinent observations and experimental results. Used correctly, laboratory notebooks can also ensure that you (or your company or school) can obtain and maintain patent approval associated with your documented research.

Laboratories often serve as the birthplace of incredible ideas. They’re where scientists investigate hunches, perform experiments, observe results, collect data, and potentially develop innovations that could change the world. But while you might be ethical enough to be concerned only with your own ideas, the same cannot be said for everyone within your industry. The unfortunate reality is that someone could be heavily influenced by your work to the point where they attempt to claim it as their own. If you fail to protect your ideas, your career could be jeopardized.

That’s why it’s so important for students and professionals alike to make a habit of using a laboratory notebook for all of the work you do. By documenting your research, observations, and other data in a bound notebook with numbered, dated, and signed pages, you’ll ensure your intellectual property can be properly attributed to you. That way, even if you have to defend your invention (and your ownership of it) in court years down the line, you’ll have the evidence necessary to show you should be the rightful patent holder.

To that end, you’ll want to use laboratory notebooks that are pre-printed in the proper page format in order to comply with patent law requirements. These notebooks should be bound so that pages cannot be added or taken out without leaving obvious traces. You should always use ink, rather than pencil, to record data in your notebook. Each time you record any information in your notebook, you’ll want to make a point to sign and date the pages you’ve worked on; it’s even better if you can have professors or coworkers sign and date those pages to provide additional evidence, if necessary. If you need to make any changes, cross out the incorrect information (rather than using white-out) before signing and dating those changes. Any unused notebook space should be crossed out with a diagonal line.

You should never document privileged or personal information in laboratory notebooks. If you need to discuss other patents or document information from your lawyer, you should keep track of this information in a separate document or notebook. When you make discoveries, test theories, or record results, you should also take care to document the importance of these findings with remarks. Memorializing these reactions in print can be of great benefit when attempting to obtain a patent. Documenting your progress and a general narrative within your laboratory notebook will be helpful for the same reason. It’s best for students and scientists to remember their lab notebooks should be treated as formal records, rather than as journals or notepads. To that end, inaccurate or incomplete ideas should not be included, as this could make it more difficult to obtain or defend patent protection later on.

By keeping these documentation tips in mind and making a point to always use a high-quality laboratory notebook, you can successfully safeguard your original ideas. For more information, please contact us today.