In the United States, the policy “first to invent”, rather than “first to file”, is employed in awarding patents to inventors. This poses a dilemma to you in competing in the IP marketplace: How can you prove that you were the first to conceive of an idea?
The key element in protecting your ideas requires an outlay of approximately $1.49 at your local stationery store. You must create a logbook, documenting the conception and evolution of your idea. This first step is actually very simple, and very inexpensive. But it cannot be forgotten. Your documentation will be invaluable to you later!
Your logbook must possess specific qualities to ensure its validity. I recommend using a common black and white composition book. The notebook need not be expensive, but its pages should not be able to be removed easily. They should have to be ripped out, which will demonstrate that you didn’t skip pages or insert extras.
Write in ink. Do not skip lines, or pages. Date every entry, and have a witness read you have written and sign their name, indicating they understand the information that has been established.
Write in your logbook frequently! The better notes you have taken, the greater the strength of your ownership of the idea. Write additional entries as you modify the idea, perform tests, or gather data – anything and everything.
If this recordkeeping seems extravagant or unnecessary, don’t kid yourself. I’ve been in federal court, fighting to defend my invention of a new technology. The first thing I was asked to prove was when I invented the idea.
Every single inventor should maintain a logbook. I will be detailing further information about how to protect your ideas – but this is the first, and foremost.
To learn more about the patent process, listen to a tele-class in which attorney Michael Neustel discusses the power of patents.