On October 25th the USPTO and the EPO announced a plan to develop a joint patent classification system.
Currently, the USPTO patent classification system is not based on WIPO’s International Patent Classification (IPC) system. Established by the Strasbourg Agreement in 1971, the IPC is a hierarchal system of symbols for the classification of patent and utility models based on their underlying technologic subject matter. On the other hand, the USPTO classification system was developed over 100 years before the IPC and comprises over 40 classes, each divided up into a number of subclasses.
Under this agreement, the USPTO and EPO seek to create a unified classification system aligned with the IPC and containing more detail so as to improve patent searches. The ultimate aim of such a system would be the elimination of “unnecessary duplication of work between the two offices, thus promoting more efficient examinations, while also enhancing patent examination quality.”
With today’s expanding markets and the need for global patent rights increasing, this joint patent classification system, like the patent prosecution highway, is a step towards streamlining international patent examination and searches.