The USPTO allows anyone to directly submit an idea/patent application. Although the intent is to allow you to cut costs, we do not recommend this approach.
The reason is simple: Your patent application has the potential to become a legal document –enforceable by law. For any legal document to retain full legal – and monetary – value, it should be written by someone well versed in patent law: a patent attorney or patent agent.
After you file your application, you can expect that the USPTO will publish it 18 months later. You can, however, request that your application be published before this date. At some point, roughly one to three years after filing, the USPTO examiner assigned to your application will likely contact you or your patent agent/attorney as part of an office action. These office actions will typically request more information or clarification.
Ultimately, the time to get a patent granted is generally around three years although the USPTO has been trying to reduce these times.