There are two main types of search: Patentability (Novelty) and Freedom to Operate (FTO) (Infringement).
It is advisable, but not compulsory, to carry out a search before filing a patent application to ensure that your invention has not already been published. A search can save money by avoiding the costs of a fruitless patent application, and, particularly in “crowded” areas of invention, allows your patent attorney to draft the patent specification in such a way that prior art is avoided.
Ideally a patentability search would cover all patent registers, but this is a lengthy and costly task. To be reasonably sure that your invention is novel, a patentability search will generally cover the New Zealand, US, UK, Australian, and European databases, and may include certain other overseas patent registers, particularly where a country is strong in a particular industry.
Freedom to Operate
Before you begin manufacturing or selling a new product, it is advisable to check if there are already patents in force that you may infringe. A Freedom to Operate search can be carried out in each country in which you will be selling and/or manufacturing your product.