The USPTO decides to abolish the US patent classification system
A very important development of the IP5 initiative has now emerged. The US Patent and trademark Office has agreed to phase out its US patent classification system and adapt to the ECLA system used by the European Patent Office examiners. In this process it is envisaged that the ECLA system will be developed further in cooperation with the USPTO to include the best practices from the US system.
One of the ten foundation projects of the IP5 cooperation between the patent offices of EPO, USA, Japan (JPO), China (SIPO) and South Korea (KIPO), is the formation of a common hybrid classification system. With this major step forward such a global patent classification system is within reach, as the Japanese Patent Office seems to be the only office adhering to their national classification system.
The advantages and disadvantages of having several patent classification systems in parallel may be argued. On the positive side parallel systems, if skillfully used, may give different access points to the patent documentation thereby enhancing what information specialists call recall. On the negative side, concordance between the systems often being poor, they may generate a lot of noise thereby reducing the precision of your search. A hybrid classification is a welcomed compromise.
Also, patent classification systems need frequent revisions in order to adapt to rapid developments in some areas of technology and duplication of cumbersome work in this area will hopefully be avoided, thanks to the cooperation between the patent offices.
It is thus good news for patent applicants and all who use patent classification in their daily work that the IP5 offices are moving towards a truly global system. It should result in more efficient patent searching, more consistency in search results from the different patent authorities and thus cost savings for the users.
The International Patent Classification (IPC) in its current 8th reformed version, is the responsibility of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and will remain the official classification system for all patent offices of the member states of this organization, including the IP5. Let us hope that harmonization between the new USPTO/EPO hybrid classification and the IPC will also be endeavored.
Marjolaine Thulin, Patent Information Specialist, Awapatent