The patenting process that one goes through to obtain a patent consists of a number of steps.
Typically, when someone has a new invention and wishes to patent it a patent search is done first to see if the invention is actually new, or if it has been thought of before by someone else. Such a search will not only provide a good background context when preparing the patent application, but will also eliminate the significant Costs associated with drafting and filing an application for something which then turns out not to be patentable.
If the patent search indicates that an invention is patentable then the next step is that of preparing the application. This is the most time consuming part of the process and involves describing not only the invention but also the prior art (or earlier inventions which are closely related). Claims are also set forth in the applications, and when the patent is granted these form the scope of the inventor's monopoly. Broad claims will provide an inventor with a broader (or larger) monopoly, but they also risk being rejected by the examiner at the patent office - precisely because they are too broad or perhaps because they also cover the prior art.
Several of the patent offices provide guidance on what and how one might write a patent application and the steps to obtaining an issued patent. For instance, the Canadian Patent Office or Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)specifically lists the steps in prosecuting an application at Canadian Patent Prosecution and provides a form of tutorial at Tutorial (Canadian). Further, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) also provides links at US Patent Info including instruction on how to apply for a patent at How to Patent (US) and other inventor resources at Inventor Resources.
A patent agent or patent lawyer will draft the claims so that they provide as much protection for the inventor as possible without being rejected by the patent office. For a sampling of patents drafted by us, click for our: Canadian Issued Patents or for our U.S. Issued Patents.
Since the preparation of a patent application is a time consuming process, and sometimes an inventor will want to file as quickly as possible, the Canadian and U.S. legislation allows for the filing of a Provisional Application which is a much quicker process. Although a provisional application will provide the inventor with an earlier filing date, it must be followed up by a normal application. In addition a number of risks are incurred which should be discussed with your patent agent.
You can also check out the FAQ's which may have the answer to some of your questions.