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Tuesday May 14, 2013

Global Classification and the USPTO

Blog by Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea

A new chapter has opened in global classification of patent documents. A collaborative internationally compatible classification system—Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC)—has now been established between the United States Patent Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) for cataloging technical and patent documents used in the patent-granting process. Planned phase out of the current United States Patent Classification (USPC) system is scheduled for January 2015. During this transition, the Office will begin classifying in CPC while continuing to classify and route applications using the USPC system.

Placing a classification symbol on an application means an examiner has determined the proper technical field to place the invention. As the Office progresses through its two-year transitional period to full implementation of CPC, examiners will receive extensive training enabling them to effectively search in CPC and place CPC symbols on published patent applications and granted patents. 

With over 8 million U.S. patent documents already containing CPC symbols, patent applicants and owners may be wondering what immediate impact CPC will have on patent searches and classification. It will mean a more comprehensive search of prior art. Existing search tools have been modified to provide all users the ability to search documents classified in CPC, USPC, and International Patent Classification (IPC) systems. These tools are available on the USPTO’s classification website. Once fully implemented, our examiners will classify and search exclusively in CPC.

Transitioning to CPC is a gradual process. All parties working with CPC should be patient with the process and proactive in learning how to use the new classification scheme and tools.

CPC is the future of classification for the USPTO and the EPO. Together, we are engaging other IP offices to expand the usage of CPC and explore future enhancements to the CPC system. By joining together and sharing resources with the EPO, CPC will provide far-reaching benefits to our employees, stakeholders, and the international patent classification community.

More information about CPC is available on the jointly maintained CPC website at where training materials and information about our transition are routinely updated. The USPTO welcomes your thoughts throughout this transition. Please send any questions or comments to the CPC mailbox at


I am opposed to limiting the examiner's search only to CPC. My personal experience when searching in the mechanical fields is that a single classification is not always the best. Thus, differing criteria are used in different classification systems. No single classification system is best.

Posted by John C. Thompson on June 18, 2013 at 10:34 AM EDT #

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