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Christopher Columbus Awards » Team Members: Protecting Your Idea
Team Members: Protecting Your Idea

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Protecting Your Idea/Project

That's my idea! Oh yeah? Prove it!

Have you ever found yourself saying, "Hey, that's my idea!"; and when you were asked to prove that it was your idea, you couldn't? This happens all the time. Usually, the reason people cannot prove that certain ideas were originally theirs is because they don't have evidence to show that they had the idea and when they had it. To help keep track of your own ideas for this project, you may want to document your work in an idea notebook.

Team Member Preparing for the Media EventHow do you "prove it"?

The easiest way to show when you first had an idea is by drawing or writing it down in an idea book. Once you have written your idea down, sign and date the page. Also, have someone who you trust be your "witness" for that idea — get the witness to sign and date the page, too.

What is an idea book?

An idea book can have several other names — it may be called a journal, a laboratory book or simply a notebook. This notebook is where you should sketch out, write down or record your ideas. Choose a composition book with sewn-in pages. If you use a spiral or loose-leaf notebook, you may lose pages or be tempted to remove pages. You don't want to do this because you may end up throwing away a really good idea!

Also, be sure to use a ballpoint pen to record your ideas. This ensures that you will have a permanent record and removes the temptation to erase a potentially good idea. Sign and date each page in your idea book so you will have proof of the date you recorded the idea or worked on the invention.

What is recorded in the idea book?

In addition to drawing or writing down your ideas, write down all the work you do while developing the idea. For example, if you have an idea for a new cookie recipe, write down the recipe. While you are in the kitchen making the cookies, write down any changes you make to the recipe during the mixing and baking process. After all, what if you invent the most delicious chocolate chip cookie ever and you can't remember what you added or did to make it taste that way? By writing down all of your work in your idea book, you will have a record of what works and what doesn't work, and a way to repeat the process. Your idea book will serve as proof that you had and worked on the idea at a particular point in time.

What does a witness do for me?

Wouldn't it be really great if you had your idea book to rely on and you could produce someone who would be willing to say that the information in your idea book was true? This is achieved by having someone you trust read and understand what you have drawn or written down in your idea book, and sign and date your book as a witness to your work.

Your ideas are important! You don't want to lose them. Take the time to write them down and have the pages witnessed. If anyone ever says "prove it," you will have the proof you need.

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