I understand that no idea is worth anything without great execution. I am only wondering whether to get a provisional patent now, so that I can somewhat safely go on to test the market. (if it proved successful I would get a utility before the year expiration.) Or to take the big upfront investment in getting a full patent now for full security. I ask this because I am worried of my product getting taken by the larger companies that I would be competing with, which I would maybe even one day want to do a licensing deal with. However I don't want to wait so long to get a full patent. I am certain my idea is genuine, and although biased since I am the inventor, that it could go on to be a big winner with the proper execution.
The patent process can be fairly expensive (depending on the product and your claims). I went through it over the course of several years (yes, you read that correctly) and it took MUCH longer than anyone projected and cost MUCH more as well.
So depending upon your financial situation it might be cost prohibitive to proceed until you secure sufficient capital.
Since the implementation of the FITF (aka FIF) system the rules and recommendations that stood for years have shifted. So the general recommendations you may think are good ideas may no longer apply.
Know that if you DO decide to file a provisional patent you have 12 months from the date of filing to file a non-provisional patent. And if you make any changes (aka "new matter") you may have to file another provisional patent because you cannot add any new matter to the non-provisional patent.
The provisional patent can be a useful tool - but depending upon the product and the strategy you are planning to execute during development and market testing - it may or may not provide the protection you desire.
I would highly recommend that you consult with a patent attorney to get an idea about what's involved (i.e. costs, processes, time-frames). At the very least hire a skilled professional to do a patent search FOR you - not only to ensure that it in fact is unique but also to ensure it is "patentable".
You may already know this but it's worth repeating: (1) Your fear of your idea of being "stolen" is one that almost every entrepreneur with a "big idea" holds and (2) It's far less likely to happen than you might think.
I wish you the best of luck!
Regardless if you have a provisional or utility patent the most important thing is customers. The earlier you can sell to customers the more leverage you'll be to have to license your idea to a larger brand. As such, I would recommend you apply for your provisional patent and work smart to acquire customers and their feedback in the 12 months that you'll have.