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A patent would still likely govern this concept as patents can cover processes, ideas, etc. HOWEVER, these processes must be reduced to writing, etc. at some point.
If you need to develop your idea/concept before seeking a patent, you can do so by approaching industries that would use this process in its operations. Often, they will pay you for the idea or the right to use and develop it for their product, etc.
In order to prevent anyone you share the idea with from stealing it or using it without your permission, you can have them sign a non-disclosure agreement.
These agreements state that the person will not share or use your idea without your permission. You can find these all over the internet, which are similar to this one: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/sample-confidentiality-agreement-nda-33343.html
Once you get funding or assistance in developing your concept, you can pursue applying for a patent.
I hope the response above answered your questions, but if you need anything further, please let me know. Thanks.