One mistake that many people who attempt to DIY the patent process make is assuming that all patents are equal. This is far from the case.
The type of patent for which you apply depends primarily on the nature of your idea. The United States Patent and Trademark Office explains the three main types of patents that you may apply for and what types of ideas fall under each category.
A design patent exists to protect an ornamental design of a functional object. You may apply for this patent if you invent an original, new, ornamental design for the purposes of manufacturing the item.
As its name implies, a plant patent serves to protect the development of a new variety of plants. To qualify for this patent, your plant, or the idea for a plant, must be distinct and of a new variety. You must have either invented or discovered the new variety on your own and asexually reproduced it.
It may surprise you to learn that most patent applications are for utility patents. You may apply for a utility patent if you discover or invent any new and useful article of manufacture, machine, process or composition of matter. You may also apply for and receive a patent if you improve on an existing article of manufacture, machine, process or composition of matter.
Identifying the type of patent you need is only half the battle of receiving one. You must then apply, but the application process is often much more complex than most people anticipate it to be. Due diligence is necessary if you are serious about protecting your invention or idea.