Document Your Invention: Why and How

It’s crucial to document your invention when you’re a small business owner and inventor. Especially if you are going through the patent process. If this is your first time creating a new product, plan how you will document your progress. You must focus on keeping good records while you work on your invention. This includes keeping detailed records of your invention’s development, progress, and milestones.

This article discusses why and how entrepreneurs and startups should document their inventions. If someone challenges your patent application or you discover someone has infringed on it, good documents are key to winning the dispute.

Why Record Your Invention Progress?

Here are some reasons you should keep records of your progress:

1. To Prove Your Ownership

Prove you are the inventor. Documenting the progress of your invention gives evidence of conception. It can help you establish your ownership rights.

2. To Secure Patent Protection

Documentation is crucial for pursuing patent protection. Documenting serves as proof of your invention’s novelty and non-obviousness. Novelty and non-obviousness are requirements for patent protection.

3. Tax Benefits

Good records can help you during income-tax time. These records help establish deductions for expenses relating to your invention. These records can also defend you from the IRS if you’re audited.

4. To Establish a Filing Date

Good records help establish a specific date when you want to file. The filing date is vital in determining priority rights and defending against potential challenges.

5. For Reduction to Practice

Documentation may prove that you were the first to turn the idea into a physical object or specific process, a.k.a. a “reduction to practice.”

6. To Establish Novelty and Originality

Good records help establish that your idea is new and original.

7. To Mitigate Liabilities and For Regulatory Compliance

Documentation can help mitigate liabilities and make sure you adhere to regulatory requirements.

8. For Progress Tracking and Project Management

Documenting your invention helps check progress, track amendments, and review project management effectiveness.

9. To Attract Stakeholders

Well-documented inventions will attract stakeholders, such as investors, licensees, or partners. Documenting your invention is essential for establishing partnerships. Potential team members will want to review your records.

10. For Credibility and Cash Flow Opportunities

A well-documented invention can increase credibility and attract cash flow opportunities.

How To Record Invention Data

To document your invention, detail your process step by step.

1. Use a Bound Lab Book

Use a bound lab book to maintain your records. This makes it difficult for opponents to argue that you tampered with the documents. Include your workflow, metrics, and milestones in this book.

2. Provide Necessary Information

Write your name, address, and the date you started keeping the lab book on the front cover or flyleaf.

3. Number the Pages

If the book lacks page numbers, add them to ensure organization.

4. Include Witness Signatures

If you have a book that does not have signature lines at the bottom of the page for your witnesses, add them. There is an example in the template below.

5. Include Expenditures

If you spend money on creating your invention, keep track of that in your logbook. List what you paid, where you spent it, and what it was for. Keep the original receipts and make copies since receipts can fade over time.

6. Use a Record of Invention Template

Your record of invention is a record of your initial idea. The suggested template to record the details of your invention, such as its:

  • Name
  • Purpose
  • Description
  • Working sketch or diagram
  • Novel features
  • Prior art
  • Advantages and disadvantages

Then, sign and date the document and have a witness sign it after reading.

Here’s a suggested template:

How To Keep Invention Secrets

Take steps to ensure that your work and the contents of your lab book remain secret. Consider getting confidentiality agreements, also known as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) for your witnesses.

Maintain a File System

Set up an organized filing system to store all relevant documents. Establishing a methodology for documenting your invention will help determine how you record your progress. If you use an electronic filing system, encrypt and protect it with passwords.

Other Patent Law Considerations

Consider filing a provisional patent application. Provisional applications give inventors a cost-effective way to establish an early filing date. Provisional applications also secure “patent pending” status. Combine your progress reports during this process to prepare a comprehensive final report to secure a final patent.

Hire a Patent Attorney

Documenting your invention is essential. Take the initiative to contact a patent attorney experienced in patent law and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) procedures. For more information on how inventors can protect their work, visit the Intellectual Property section.

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