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Protecting Your Critical Inventions On A Tight Budget A three-step system to get the most value with little cost.

By Steve Sponseller

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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If your business relies on inventions to maintain a competitive edge, you need to keep the pipeline flowing even when funds are scarce. A slow economy or other business disruption doesn't mean you can ignore critical inventions. If you don't take timely action to protect them, you may forfeit the right to file a patent application. That means other companies can freely use your unique inventions in their own competing products.

For example, U.S. patent laws have time requirements for filing patent applications. If your company publicly discloses an invention or sells a product with the invention, those activities can trigger a one-year deadline to file a patent application covering it. If you don't act before the one-year deadline, you can forfeit your ability to obtain patent protection.

Don't let limited funds prevent you from protecting key inventions. To get the most value from a tight budget, here is a three-step system to protect your most valuable inventions.