The meaning of the word "meaningful" in the context of Art. 17(2)(a)(ii) is essentially a matter for the examiner to decide. The examiner's finding may change in the light of any reply from the applicant to the invitation for informal clarification, if available (see GL/PCT-EPO B‑VIII, 3.3 and GL/PCT-EPO B-VIII, 3.4). The exercise of the examiner's discretion will depend upon the facts of the case.
The term "meaningful search" in Article 17(2)(a)(ii) should be read to include a search that within reason is complete enough to determine whether the claimed invention complies with the substantive requirements, that is, the novelty, inventive step, and industrial applicability requirements, and/or the sufficiency, support and clarity requirements of Articles 5 and 6. Accordingly, a finding of "no meaningful search" should be limited to exceptional situations in which no search at all is possible for a particular claim, for example where the description, the claims or the drawings are totally unclear. To the extent that the description, the claims or the drawings can be sufficiently understood, even though parts of the application are not in compliance with the prescribed requirements, a search should be performed recognising that the non-compliance may have to be taken into account for determining the extent of the search.
As there is no legal provision providing that an applicant must formulate the application in such a way as to make an economical search possible, "reasons of economy" cannot be used as a reason, or part of a reason, for issuing an incomplete search report.