Proving inventorship, conception and/or reduction to practice requires reliable and detailed evidence. The law does not require that the records be kept in a particular form. However, the records must clearly show conception and the steps leading to the reduction to practice.

Because of the need for reliable evidence, evidence must be corroborated by a person who is not a party to the invention. This may be accomplished by a supervisor, a subordinate or another person qualified to understand the disclosure. However, joint inventors cannot corroborate for one another.

Many different types of forms and/or records can be and are used. Some laboratories use bound notebooks with sequentially numbered pages that are filled out with the date of entry. The books should be signed and dated by the inventor at regular intervals.

Another technique is to establish an elaborate paper trail that includes a large number of documents. These documents can include memorandums, weekly or monthly progress reports, purchase orders or other records.

The USPTO also maintains a document-disclosure program. The USPTO will accept documents evidencing conception of an invention and retain those documents for two years for a small fee. The following mnemonic device* will help you in recording your inventions:

Record all lab information in a bound notebook.
Each entry must be signed and dated.
Corroborate all entries by a knowledgeable person.
Original entries should never be erased.
Review and retain all records.
Data stored on a computer must be printed, permanently bound, signed and dated.

* Erik Sander, Bob Anderson, “Intellectual Property Workshop” at the UF Engineering Research Center for Particle Science & Technology, Thursday, Oct. 17, 1996.