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Jessica Chesher

Managing Editor

Innovation eReview
Industry News: Cooperative Patent Classification

As globalization continues, it becomes increasingly important that innovators and companies be able to perform effective patent searches. Patent classification is a code used to categorize an invention, an important tool for performing a comprehensive patent search. Determining patent classification clarifies patent searches by eliminating potential ambiguity created by terminology. It also provides the ability to search a group of patents that have similarities which makes for easier determination of patent infringement.
In an announcement January 2, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the European Patent Office formally launched the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system. Prior to the partnership between the USPTO and EPO to create the CPC, each office had their own system. 

The CPC will be a common, internationally compatible classification system that will include the best practices from both offices. Establishing the CPC as an international standard will allow for improved efficiency and more effective patent protection. The expected benefits of this joint venture are improved access to more documents from patent offices around the world, improved navigation and understanding, improved consistency of classified search results across IP offices, and adaptive and actively maintained classification schemes. 

Currently several facets are continuing to be worked on such as quality assurance, harmonized classification practices, joint CPC revisions, and eventually availability for use by other IP offices and the public. In the future the CPC definitions will be shared with other patent offices and the public in general. Prior to the CPC’s inception the EPO classified most US patent documents into the European classification system (ECLA). Now these will be converted into CPC symbols with the offices working to classify the remaining unclassified US documents into CPC rather than ECLA.

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