Moving into the future with patent classification

01 October 2012

Today marks a stepping stone towards the harmonisation of the global patent system. You may wonder what’s happening that makes 1 October 2012 so special.

The answer may sound unspectacular, but the event in question really is a major development. Today, the EPO and the USPTO are publishing the outcome of two years of hard work to develop a joint classification scheme, the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC), based initially on the European classification system (ECLA) and incorporating the best classification practices of the two offices. Two of the five largest patent offices in the world (the so-called IP5 Offices) will therefore be using a common refined system to classify and retrieve patent publications. This project, coming to fruition so soon after the signing of the relevant agreement, in October 2010, is an exemplary result of the cooperation activities pursued by the EPO and its international partners.

The CPC, with its refined scheme and detailed definitions documenting the classification practice in each technical area, will be more powerful and easier to use than its respective predecessors. Indeed, with 250 000 entries, the CPC is the most powerful patent classification available (it used to be ECLA with 140 000 entries). It will help to select the most pertinent prior art, leading to an improvement of the quality of the process.

During the development phase, it has attracted a great deal of interest from other patent offices and users of classification data. This, to me, is a strong indicator of the need for a harmonised classification system. With a view to this, the CPC is certainly an important step in the right direction. The CPC will enter into effect at the EPO and the USPTO on 1 January 2013.  To find out more, I suggest you visit the dedicated joint website

I would like to take this opportunity to warmly congratulate our US partner for this very fruitful collaboration. The EPO will continue to support all initiatives simplifying the patent system while maintaining or even raising the overall quality globally.

Benoît Battistelli

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Categories: International co-operation

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