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Why are laboratory notebooks important?

Laboratory notebooks are important for several reasons. In the U.S., if two applicants are seeking a patent on the
same invention, the patent is not necessarily awarded to the one who filed first, but is sometimes instead awarded
to the one who was the first to invent. Establishing priority of invention often depends on such documentation as
laboratory notebooks. An inventor who fails to keep a laboratory notebook runs the risk of having difficulty
establishing the date on which the invention was made, and thus may lose out in a priority contest with another
inventor.
Laboratory notebooks are also important for other reasons. For example, when one is accused of taking a trade
secret from someone else, if a laboratory notebook shows that one was in possession of the contested information
before any access to the adversary’s information, this helps to negate a claim that the secret was stolen from the
adversary.