From IPKat comes this update that may be of interest to those filing foreign patent applications via the Patent Cooperation Treaty. As of January 1, 2009, WIPO will implement a new "supplementary international search" (or "SIS") service to all applicants. The point of the SIS is to offer a second layer of search above and beyond that provided by the applicant's usual searching authority. See the WIPO announcement here.
Practically speaking, the SIS will probably be commissioned by applicants to be run in a language different than that of the initial search. Initially, only three searching authorities will offer the SIS: Russia, Sweden, and Norway, but WIPO anticipate adding "at least three more" in 2009 and 2010.
While this may seem like a really bad time to be adding an additional expense to foreign patent filings, if used properly the SIS could end up saving applicants money by unearthing prior art for key applications while there is still time to deal with it during prosecution.