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RFID to Protect Intellectual Property

BookFactory is partnering with FileTrail, selling laboratory notebooks fitted with EPC Gen 2 tags to companies that need to track researchers' personal notes.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 04, 2009Laboratory notebook manufacturer BookFactory is marketing a new RFID-enabled scientific notebook that a company can use to track the books' movements around an office. Scientific notebooks can be of extreme value to pharmaceutical, food or medical firms because employees often record the development of new products, recipes and technologies within them by hand. The data written in the notebooks can be worth millions of dollars to a company that needs to prove it was the first to develop a new drug, flavor or other patentable idea.

BookFactory has teamed with FileTrail, a records-management software and technology firm that will install the RFID interrogator infrastructure and software to manage data regarding the books' movements around an office. BookFactory will sell the books with embedded RFID tags that transmit an ID number to the interrogators.

Andrew Gilmore, president at BookFactory, demonstrating the company's RFID-enabled notebooks

For the past six years BookFactory has been selling serialized scientific notebooks to companies such as pharmaceutical firms and food manufacturers. Typically, a company assigns serialized paper notebooks to its employees, who then use them to record research results by hand. Because the material written in the books can be highly valuable, intellectual theft or industrial espionage are major concerns. To keep them safe, businesses maintain a watchful eye over the books. Workers can document their findings in the books, which remain the property of the company, never leaving the office.

At any particular time, a company can ask for a book to be returned, then lock it in a vault or copy it onto microfiche. In the case of a legal patent dispute, the firm can then present the book as evidence, which tends to be more convincing in a courtroom than electronic records, which can be manipulated. "No electrical system is foolproof," says Andrew Gilmore, BookFactory's president. A paper trail in a permanently bound book is often much more credible to a judge or jurors. "There's no way to alter that," he says, noting that even the pages are stitched together in such a way that they could not be removed without that action being apparent.

Employees track their findings in the serialized paper books, while the books themselves remain the property of the company and never leave the company office.

If the notebooks leave the office or end up in the wrong hands, however, the company then has a problem. FileTrail, which provides RFID tracking solutions for files and assets in offices, was approached by some of its customers and asked to find a way to track lab books, and to ensure they do not fall into the wrong hands, according to John Packowski, the company's marketing and public relations director. Attaching an RFID sticker to a notebook itself is not a failsafe solution, he points out, because the tag could be removed.

In January of this year, Gilmore says, FileTrail approached BookFactory seeking a better solution, and the two companies designed the result. FileTrail would provide the RFID tag that BookFactory would embed in its books for customers seeking an RFID solution. FileTrail would also provide the software and reader installation to the company. The two companies announced the new system at the annual Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) meeting, held this week in Anaheim, Calif.

When the books are printed, BookFactory integrates an EPC Gen 2 UHF passive RFID tag into each cover so it cannot be removed. Each tag has a unique ID number encoded onto it. The company then uses an interrogator to read the tag and ensure it is working properly. When a user receives a book, he can scan its tag and input the unique serial number printed on the cover—as well as other data, such as to whom the notebook will be assigned, and any restrictions governing that book's movement, such as which area of the office it is permitted to be in.

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