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Your Patent Clock Is Ticking: 3 Activities That Trigger Patent-Filing Deadlines Public disclosure, sale or offer to sell trigger a 12-month window.

By Steve Sponseller Edited by Heather Wilkerson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If your business develops inventions to maintain its industry leadership, you need to understand critical deadlines that may prevent you from protecting those inventions.

Three important activities automatically trigger a 12-month deadline in the United States for filing a patent application to protect your invention. In most situations, if you miss this deadline, you forfeit the ability to protect the invention. This means your competitors can freely use that invention in their products because you can't protect it with a patent.

Unfortunately, many business leaders are unaware of this deadline and inadvertently lose potential patent rights to their inventions.

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