I am doing some online search on inventions and patents. Step 1 seems to be keeping accurate records. They also say to have a couple of individuals sign and date the entries. I am assuming these are people you trust. Would your family count? What are some best practices in recording notes about your invention?


This used to be a lot more important than it is now. In the past, the United States determined patent priority based on a first-to-invent system. That is, if you and another inventor both had patent applications pending for roughly the same invention, the one who could prove they invented it first would win. Those "interference" proceedings are why inventors needed to keep such carefully documented records of when they invented things and took various steps in reducing it to practice. If there was documented evidence that credible, neutral people saw you inventing something and continuously taking diligent steps to reduce an idea to practice, while your competitor just had his own word and maybe the word of some family members whose incentives are strongly aligned to helping him/her win, your evidence would probably carry greater weight when a finder of fact balanced the evidence. There aren't hard-and-fast rules, just predictions about future credibility and weight of evidence in the event of a later dispute regarding the invention process.

As of March 2013, the US joined the rest of the world with a first-to-file system, meaning that if two inventors have patent applications pending for roughly the same invention, whichever application effectively reached the USPTO first wins - and this is considerably easier to resolve. The guides you're reading may have been written (or their authors educated) before this new system.

There are still lots of good reasons for documenting your invention process. There are still good reasons for trying to privately explain your work and progress to trusted others, because trying to explain the idea can clarify it and (especially in conversation) lead to new improvements and good ideas. Documenting others' observations of your progress can still be helpful in case there's any dispute about your invention process at a later date.

You could also consider recording your invention notes in a cloud storage format (e.g. Google Drive, GitHub private repositories) which has a large, well-known party recording dates of changes, likely to be viewed more credibly than a paper notebook. If you're keeping designs on GitHub (etc.) you also gain access to the supported features like easy branching (to try out some new improvement) and quick reversion if some attempted change didn't produce the improvements you thought it might, helping your invention process. The cloud storage option also gives you benefits of backup and makes it less likely your records will get destroyed by some accident (or natural disaster, attack, etc.), while slightly increasing your risk of having information stolen if someone hacks in to your account (use 2FA and see Information Security.SE for more tips on preventing that). This strategy also makes it easier to add geographically distant collaborators if you find people you want to partner with, and makes it easier for them to access the history in case questions come up while you're unreachable (on vacation, etc.).

Especially with the first-to-file system now in place, if trying to find the right people to observe and sign your notebook on a regular basis is causing you issues and slowing you down, you might be better off just forgetting about it and focusing your time & energies on understanding problems, inventing solutions, and finding ways to make those solutions broadly useful. Good luck!

  • A bound notebook with witnesses signing it has the feature that you can’t branch. Branching and abandoning an approach and deleting has the opposite property of a bound and page numbered notebook and hurts its value as evidence as to your progress. No one from google will come to court to testify that the records show such and such. A witnessesed bound numbered notebook is more credible. Also interference is no longer an issue but Derivation is. – George White Feb 19 '20 at 18:01

The old impetus for documenting your progress was for two reasons a) to prove a date of conception to use as evidence in an interference proceeding where you and another inventor were going through examination at about the same time and b) to “swear behind” a prior art reference in the case where a reference is cited against you. It was possible to make the reference go away by showing you conceived of and reduced it to practice before the date of the reference. The AIA law with first to file took away both possibilities.

A current reason to document your invention progress would be to use as evidence in a Derivation proceeding. This is used to show that someone who filed first actually stole the invention from you, who filed later. To win you need to establish that you invented it and that they learned of it from your work.

A bound, page numbered and witnessed notebook coupled with the testimony of the witness is solid evidence.


You could also consider recording your invention notes in a cloud storage format (e.g. Google Drive, verses the way it was 1980- sept 11th 2001 In the past one kept a handwritten notebook with numbered pages and you're drew a line under the disclosures you made specifications, what the objectives were of the invention, and the Drawings, which you number yourself. The Patent office should reinstate the Disclosure documents program and the Google Drive docs could be submitted online. I would support if elected 2020 the reinstatement of both the Disclosure documents program and the Sir Program, which would allow small entity inventors to have their provisional patents published in the Patent Gazette for a small fee. The grounds are simply that Google and the other corporations are not going to go to court to defend your rights and also the case In re: Thomas Steed, Sourav Bhattacharya, Sandeep Seshadrijois, No. 2014-1458, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 17248 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 1, 2015) (Before Newman, Clevenger, and Dyk, J.) (Opinion for the court, Newman, J. rejected swearing behind a Reference by Affidavit or Declaration as insufficient evidence to show or prove the dates of invention. As noted above the Current Patent law is a first to file first to invent system. There is therefore given the quality of the applicant in this case and the fact he had difficulty of finding anyone to sign his notebook a need to protect the inventor and the innovative ownership rights. Generally, it takes an existing partnership in business Rosco vs Mirror- Lite, and the infringer Rosco lost on appeal, but the the two firms made a partnership to remain in business. Under Today's No Law patent laws an invention must be reduced to practice by a subcontractor that invalidates a pending Patent Application and any continuations in part that are aimed to cover the inability to enforce existing patent rights on the articles of manufacture or later changes. In additions The Xerox corporation lost a case in 2001 -2012 because the toner cartridges they patented were manufactured in another state. Therefore, if a customer with the competing patent application says Mirror Lite in business wanted to make a profit they cannot deduct wages and so they would buy manufactured plastics from Ohio( a mirror product ) and assemble the goods they sold in Michigan under a pending patent application(s). In all likelihood they would never disclose the fact to the court in Delaware, if they were never asked by Rosco. Corporations may limit the liability of the owners but when there is never any minutes recorded about the knowledge of the invention the continuation in part is then a result of the Disclosure Documents that the inventor had filed with the Patent Office, which did not result in a patent by abandonment. ROSCO ran a pretty good plan. They just had a prototype plastic acrylic mirror dome made out of clear translucent plexiglas from another plastics co and kept a copy of their fax transmission and call records on their telephone. This shows the reduction to practice of something. If you take that as an example a the matter of a fixed radius versus a variable radius indicated the truth after selecting on annual sales of $13.7 million US dollars for Valley TM reported by Dunn and Bradstreet Hoovers Reports given the rise in wages 3 fold and the increase in output form CNC equipment to cut the Plastic Blanks that are thermoformed not injection molded. This was learned from the testimony given by both firms and you can see the delay in the filing of the Elliptical Patent in 2.5 years was due to the filing of the disclosure documents of the owners son with his mother as a witness and both signatures on the drawing. This strategy also makes it easier to add geographically distant collaborators if you find people you want to partner with, and makes it easier for them to access the history in case questions come up while you're unreachable (on vacation, etc.). Well this means the inventors have no protection to trust Google at all unless he holds back his written disclosures and stores only his data with a few notes to reference his written notes. That is the better strategy as the access logs in the above case are not a receipt and the inventor was not paid by a firm to do the work of inventing so unless your parents founded the family business you are out of luck. And even then there would not be any minutes called or board meetings to allow you a cause of action. Your parents lawyers will break you if they can because you do not write the checks to them. Moreover, if and only if one had an opportunity to record that debt as an instrument to a land title deed can an action of cause be shown as just. At that point 20 years has to pass to overcome the statute of uses and your inventive rights would have to be tied too the estate of one's grandparent(S) that had land and a going business and a interest in the inventive property to prevent a state court from controlling the matter in dispute as a civil matter. Then the Justice Department can intervene as it is not a civil matter and if and only if the invention was used in production and never registered with your state as a trade secret can they prosecute. If you lost your job for your invention to make things better for the customer and improve the balance sheets that you were expected to pay from by a grant of stock in the firm which is what people would expect. So I hope you can learn from this. Money has to be paid and you have to keep receipts but a meeting with Patent Lawyer does not count. So you need to buy something as a material of the invention during your reduction to practice. When you are storing searches and notions for innovations on Google Drive there are thousands of inventions you may have that can later be reduced to practice but you do not own the space you are parking that information so without changes you are helping Google to help themselves to the inventions. So it would be difficult for the patent office to deny the invention nor explain the logic of a first to file first to invent system of Patent Law given the rise of these perfect keepers of the inventive conceptions or searches. Bitcoin is a good example. It keeps a perfect record of activity. A new system reinstating the disclosure documents would better protect the nation's economy and domestic and foreign policies. In addition be aware the internet is tool of political correctness. It is not about truth or giving credit due so to help you document your work. California drives the internet's world of innovative ideas and the invention process itself. I authorities will flag what you write and have your comments erased. Between you and me you can get a patent on just about anything if you can pay for it! However, even if you ran for President of the United States that year say in 2020 your comments just get erased. I do intend too change this as it deeply distressing.

Robert C. Thompson

  • 2
    This is full of half truths and out of date information and erroneous ideas. Inventors please ignore. – George White Feb 19 '20 at 1:12
  • This answer makes little sense to me. – Eric S Feb 19 '20 at 15:16

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