This type of search – the novelty search or patentability search – is conducted in order to examine whether an innovation is patentable prior to filing a patent application. It provides insight into what is already known about the invention (prior art). This is important because novelty is one of the requirements for patenting.
A novelty search looks both at patent documents in patent databases and at non-patent literature, such as scientific publications. This is because everything that has ever been published or otherwise disclosed may be relevant in assessing whether an invention is patentable.
A novelty search may also show that although the general concept of an innovation is not patentable, part of it is, such as one or more applications of the product or composition, for example. An innovation could potentially still be patented after a modification.