Cooperative Patent Classification System Underway to Streamline Prior Art Searching

As we previously reported, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) jointly launched the Cooperative Patent Classification System (CPC) with the aim of producing a common classification system for technical documents and the promise of transparent and harmonized global classification for patent documents.

In furtherance of these goals, last week the USPTO and EPO announced that they have worked together in recent months to synergize their respective classification schemes under the newly launched CPC. A critical result of the CPC is to streamline prior art searching among the USPTO and the more than 45 patent offices, estimated at over 20,000 patent examiners, sharing the same classifications with the CPC as an international standard.

According to the CPC website, the CPC will harmonize the USPTO’s and EPO’s classification systems (USPC and ECLA, respectively) into a single system resembling the structure of the International Patent Classification (IPC) system administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); this is the only patent classification system used by all patent offices. The jointly developed classification system will be more detailed than the IPC to improve patent searching. In addition, the maintenance of the scheme under the CPC will also be collaborative, allowing resource sharing when classifying documents, and revising and reclassifying the scheme as necessary.

Gibbons will continue to monitor developments and to provide counsel in this area.

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