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US Patent and Trademark Office and European Patent Office Launch Cooperative Patent Classification System

The U.S. Commerce Department’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) today announced the formal launch of the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system, a global classification system for patent documents.

The CPC is the product of a joint partnership between the USPTO and the EPO to develop a common, internationally compatible classification system for technical documents used in the patent granting process that incorporates what is believed to be the best classification practices from both offices. It will be used by the USPTO and more than 45 patent offices – a user community totaling more than 20,000 patent examiners – all sharing the same classifications helping to establish the CPC as an international standard.

Since October 2010, the USPTO and EPO have worked jointly to develop the CPC system, which includes approximately 250,000 classification symbols based on the International Patent Classification (IPC) system thus enabling examiners and patent users worldwide to conduct searches by accessing the same classified patent document collections.

The official CPC website is available here.

There has long been a prevailing opinion among US patent searchers that the US classification system is more effective and accurate than the EPO classification system.  It remains to be seen if the transition will actually improve the ability for attorneys and patent searchers to locate relevant prior art using the new CPC system.

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