In general, three routes are followed:
file the complete application immediately, without filing earlier patent applications;
file a provisional application to establish a filing or “priority” date, with the complete application being filed within 12 months of the provisional application; or
if patent protection is sought in foreign countries, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is often used, which allows the same application to be filed in more than one country at one time.
Combinations of these processes can also be used.