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EPO and USPTO unveil new classification system

The EPO and USPTO have launched a new patent classification system, called the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC), as part of efforts to harmonise patent procedures globally

The CPC is effective for both offices from January 2 as a means of classifying technical documents, notably patent publications. It replaces the previous separate systems (known as ECLA and USPC).

The new system is based on the ECLA and comprises some 250,000 symbols. Definitions for every CPC sub-class will be regularly updated.

The CPC has been developed by staff from both offices, including examiners, over the past two years.

EPO President Benoît Battistelli told Managing IP that the work at the EPO involved the equivalent of 150 full-time examiners and the Office has spent €12 million on IT modifications. It has also updated about 10% of all its documents.

The CPC is compatible with the International Patent Classification (IPC) system, used by WIPO and many other patent offices. But it is much more precise, with many more categories.

Classification harmonisation was one of 10 foundation projects agreed by the IP5 offices (EPO, JPO, KIPO, SIPO and USPTO) in 2007.

Battistelli said he was optimistic that KIPO and SIPO would adopt the CPC and it would soon become a global standard. The JPO has its own comprehensive classification system.

He added that improved access to information would benefit users and examiners: “The quality of patents will certainly improve.”

CPC promotional and training events are listed on the CPC website.

Managing IP’s February issue will include in-depth interviews on the CPC with Battistelli and USPTO Director David Kappos

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