Typically, there’s a four-step process:
Step One: Prior art search. Using a disclosure statement – a 1-2 page concise summary that you write – a search is performed against issued patents, patent applications, and the marketplace to find inventions that are closest to your idea.
Step Two: Search evaluation. The results of the search are used to make a decision as to whether to proceed with a patent application, or a provisional application. In essence, you must be the first to invent something in order to be issued a patent on it.
Step Three: Prepare & submit application. If step 2 is positive, a patent application or provisional application can be drafted and filed.
Step Four: Get Patent to Issue. Usually the Patent Office rejects the claims of the application and states why the invention is not eligible for a patent. Written arguments then go back-and-forth, sometimes fine-tuning the claims. While inventors often find this unsettling, many IP experts consider that this vetting process results in a stronger patent than if the application simply went straight-to-issue as it was submitted.