As you may have discovered, the problem with most great ideas is that someone else has already thought of it. To be patentable, an invention must be novel and non-obvious around the world. The critical question is this: has someone else already applied for a patent?
For you to obtain the most protection available under the law, we suggest that you order a U.S. and foreign patent search. A U.S. and foreign patent search will tell you which inventions are similar to your invention. There are couple of ways to do this research and is all written in this post on https://blogs.harvard.edu/blockchain/the-realities-and-constraints-of-the-new-tech-age-inventhelp-to-the-rescue-of-struggling-inventors/ blog.
Protect your idea in anticipation of receiving one or more patents. Once you know for sure that you are on sound footing in pursuing a patent, there are several things you can do to protect your interests as soon as possible.
You can file for a Provisional patent application quickly if it does not have claims. Claims are the legally operable part of a patent application, though other parts of the application (in particular the detailed description) may be used for purposes of claiming a priority date. The Provisional patent application has a lesser filing fee than the Utility patent application and will expire if it is not upgraded to a utility patent application within one (1) year of filing. The Provisional patent application does give the inventor(s) a priority date and patent pending status this alone is a goal for many inventors.
You can file a Document Disclosure to prove that you came up with an idea on a particular date. This disclosure, though it does not give the inventor a priority date as does the Provisional patent application, will allow the inventor a modicum of peace of mind as the PTO will hold on to the disclosure for two (2) years. The importance of this disclosure is the fact that in the US, the right to an invention lodges in the first person(s) to invent and not necessarily the first person(s) to file a patent application. The disclosure is only good so long as a patent application is diligently filed in the PTO, and the inventor makes no public disclosure of the invention. There is this article on https://washingtoninformer.com/how-inventhelp-can-help-local-business-owners/ which could be very helpful too.