There is no such thing as an automatic patent through creation or usage of an invention; the inventor must file an application (and pay a filing fee) and be issued a patent. To apply for a U.S. patent, the inventor files an application with a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, known as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).
For the purpose of obtaining an early filing date, the inventor may file what is known as a Preliminary Patent Application (PPA). The only requirement for a PPA is that it must adequately describe the invention. However, to obtain a patent, the inventor must file a formal patent application (within one year of the PPA date if one is filed) that follows technical conventions and contains words and drawings to clearly:
teach how to make and use the basic invention
explain why the invention is different from all previous and similar developments (known as the prior art), and
precisely describe what aspects of the invention deserve the patent (the patent claims).
This patent application will be the subject of much push and pull between the applicant and the patent examiner employed by the PTO to screen it.
Related terms: abandonment of patent; abstract; application filing fees; certificate of correction; claims, defined; confidentiality of patent application; dependent claim; disclosure requirement for patents; drawings, patent application; duty of candor and good faith; enabling disclosure; fraud on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; group art unit; independent claim; Information Disclosure Statement; large entity; limiting reference; means plus function clause; multiple claims; new matter; patent agents; patent applicant; patent application; Patent Application Declaration (PAD); Provisional Patent Application (PPA); read on; recite; small entity; specification, defined.