Before seeking patent protection, it is wise to obtain a professional opinion on patentability. This can tell you how strong a patent protection on your idea may be, i.e., its ability to hold-off copy-cats and infringers. Note: some issued patents are not worth the paper they are printed on.
First, conduct research in global databases using the international class code system.
Second, select publications that describe inventions similar to yours.
Third, obtain a written patentability report from a highly experienced Patent Agent considering (i) the likelihood of patent allowance, (ii) commercial interference with currently active patents and, (iii) issues of commercial success. A good opinion should be directed to all three of these issues.
When you decide to file for patent protection, the patentability report will help in preparing a superior application.