The United States Patent Classification (USPC) was the official patent classification system used and maintained by the USPTO until January 1, 2013. The system was replaced with the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC), a joint partnership between the USPTO and the EPO where the Offices agreed to harmonize their existing classification systems (ECLA and USPC, respectively) and migrate towards a common classification scheme.
In January 2015, after a gradual transition period, the USPTO stopped classifying new utility patents in the USPC structure altogether and began using only the CPC system. Plant and Design patents are not covered in the CPC system and will continue to be published with USPC codes.
The USPTO and EPO identify 2 main objectives of CPC:
1) Improving patent searching
2) Sharing resources
The Offices believe that the transition to CPC with a single harmonized classification system, having a similar structure to the International Patent Classification (IPC), but more detailed than IPC, will improve efficiency in patent searching. The joint system will enable a greater collaboration between the Offices meaning resources to be shared between the EPO and USPTO in order to classify documents, to revise the scheme as necessary, and to subsequently reclassify documents.
The USPTO and EPO anticipate great benefits of CPC for the applicant and the user community. On their joint website (www.CPCinfo.org) they outline the following expected benefits of CPC:
What does this mean for Attorneys and Searchers?
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