Lab notebooks are the linchpin of any scientific endeavor, since they serve as proof for everything that an investigator has done (and as a personal reference for long-forgotten protocols). The standard is to use a bound notebook with handwritten (in pen!) notes, the idea being that these are more difficult to fake and easier to organize than, say, loose-leaf paper with pencil scribblings.

However, current biological research is done more and more by computer, and a lot of this stuff does not translate well to a hard-bound notebook. For instance, I’m regularly taking thousands of microscopy images (in a single day) for my projects, and printing all of these off would be tremendously stupid. The value of spreadsheets, scripts, plots, and all kinds of computer-generated data is in the fact they they are digital, so why try to convert them to an outdated medium?

So, I’ve been working on an electronic notebook system that would be court-defensible, highly organized, and easy enough to use that the time requirements wouldn’t be much higher than that for a hardcopy notebook. Currently, this system consists of a handful of Python scripts for organizing and creating a LaTeX notebook, though my plan is to make the thing more cohesive and, eventually, usable (and maybe even useful) for slightly-computer-savvy biologists.

Once I clean it up a bit more, I’ll start posting code and ideas, but in the meantime here’s my problem:

I have been having a hell of a time coming up with a decent name for the project. Since it will eventually be public, I need something catchy. I’ve come up with some pretty lame stuff, too embarrassing to mention, such that until a flash of inspiration a few hours ago the best I had was “Slabnote”…

That light-bulb radiation was this: LabTeX.

Awesome, right? It’s pronounced “Lab tech”, so it’s hugely punny. HUGELY.

I was quite excited and so, of course, did a quick Google search which, to my immense displeasure, showed that a company with that very same name already exists. And it’s a Laboratory equipment company. Which means that my use of LabTeX could be considered trademark infringement. They are based in the UK though, so maybe I’m in the clear?

Anyway, if you are one of the 10 people reading this, please weigh in! I’m looking for both legal advice and punny names. For inspiration (for names, not law), here is a list of relevant keywords:

biology, science, lab, notebook, electronic, LaTeX, TeX, life, cell, molecule, gene, organizer, system


6 thoughts on “LabTeX

  1. That might be too close for comfort. I’m not familiar with international trademark laws, but better safe than sorry. If I think of an awesome name I’ll shoot it your way.

  2. Well, there’s a book out there called TeXbook, but not yet a company…

    If I were you I would look into using the evernote or google notebook API along with you python scripts… then you can build the product with an eventual exit strategy of being purchased by evernote.

    There’s the whole could benifit of course to that, though I guess if you are running it locally, you could also have it write files to a FTP location or even to a directory monitored by dropbox.

    I agree with seth, if someone else is already raging under the name, you should at least rack your brain hard for something else before you try to take it from them. If for no other reason than you down want to fight them for search rankings.

    All that said, I think a different market segment in a different part of the world, you might just be able to coexist with the same name…

  3. WEll if you are making an electronic lab notebook. I would try ElnTeX or along those lines. ETex, stay away from calling it BioTex because it might move people away. ELNTeX would be a good name because it is general enough.

  4. Hey,

    Have you come across the Open Microscopy Environment?

    If you are “regularly taking thousands of microscopy images (in a single day)” you may appreciate our Open Science project which enables the management, organisation and analysis of such scales of microscopy imagery.

    I won’t post a link, but if you search for “About OMERO” it should tell you all you need to know. If you’re interested there’s an OVA appliance you can download (virtualbox) and a public test server that you can get an account for.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks for the info. We actually just had Jason Swedlow talk to our lab about OMERO, and are seriously thinking about adopting it. It looks amazing, and I’m definitely hoping we get it going soon!

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