This post was first published on 4th November, 2011.
One of the strategies adopted by the examiner/searcher while performing a prior art search is to identify the classification of the invention’s subject matter. Patent classification is a way by which a patent office arranges identical or similar patent documents. A patent document can be classified in several classes.
There are numerous patent classification systems available across the world such as International Patent Classification (IPC), United States Patent Classification (USPC), European Classification (ECLA), F-term and Derwent classification system. Most of the countries incorporate IPC on their patent documents. The IPC is generated by using a computer concordance and hence, many people believe that the IPC on a patent document is often quite broad and more general.
Generally, there is often no exact relationship between different classification systems. For example, US classification introduced in 1836 does not have any exact relationship with International Patent Classification (IPC) introduced in 1968. In order to overcome aforementioned problem between different classification systems, European Patent Office (EPO) and US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched a joint project in Oct 2010 to create the Cooperation Patent Classification (CPC) in order to harmonize their patent classifications systems (ECLA and USPC respectively) into a single system having a similar structure to the International Patent Classification (IPC) administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the only patent classification system used by all patent offices. Further, the CPC system will be more detailed than the IPC to improve patent searching and examination. It is believed that the new CPC will use the European Classification system (ECLA) as a basis and incorporate the best classification practices of the USPTO.
Further, the EPO and the USPTO will share their resources in order to classify documents, to revise the scheme whenever necessary and to subsequently reclassify documents in order to reduce unnecessary duplication of work and enhance efficiency.
Image by Kevin Spear
Author: Sanjiv Saran