It's important to search first to check whether your idea is novel. This page includes useful searching links and tips.
Internet Searching Links
The following publicly available internet links may prove useful in conducting searching to determine whether your invention already exists. These links only include those searchable using English. Non-English databases will also have relevant documents.
Google Patents https://patents.google.com/
Unsurprisingly Google has built a very good patent searching engine.
The European patent office search engine. Also has many patent documents from around the world, e.g. Australia, Japan, China, PCT.
PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) site including online records of all PCT applications.
New Zealand Patent Office site. Limited to New Zealand records only.
IP Australia http://pericles.ipaustralia.gov.au/ols/auspat/
Australian Patent Office site. Limited to Australian Records Only.
These tips may prove helpful if you are finding it difficult to locate similar things to your invention.
1. Avoid limiting the search
Be careful to not limit your search to the specific use of your technology, e.g. the technology used in drug packaging may be the same as in fruit packaging, therefore if you have devised a new fruit packaging technique it may be necessary to also search all packaging technology.
2. Start broad
Start searching by using a few broad key words, ideally only 2-4, that relate to your invention, e.g. if you have invented a new accelerator mechanism for a hydrogen powered car then the three key words to use may be: “vehicle, hydrogen, accelerator”. Starting with only a few words will result in a large number of hits, most which may not be relevant. The search can then be refined as you identify what words other people use to describe similar inventions.
3. Words to use
Continue using different keywords and combinations until you begin to locate documents/sites that describe devices similar to your invention or at least in the general field. This may require you to spend significant time reading through verbose patent documents. Ensure you do not dismiss patent documents purely based on a brief read of the abstract or drawings. Abstracts often only relate to one very brief version of the thing described in the main document. It is therefore important to look at all the drawings and if they look remotely relevant, also to read the document.
When you locate a document/site that describes something similar, keyword search with some of the words that the document/site uses to describe their device/system.
5. Record and Repeat
Every time you find a relevant document or site, save it and write notes next to it about why it was relevant and what your invention that isn't described in that document or site.
Repeat steps 2-4 as you progressively refine your search and build a list of relevant 'prior art'.