902 Search Tools and Classification Information [R-08.2012]
902.01 Manual of Classification [R-08.2012]
The Manual of Classification is the key to the U.S. Patent Classification System (USPC). The complete Manual of Classification is available to USPTO personnel from the Classification Home Page (http://ptoweb:8081/), which is accessible from the desktop via the Patent Examiner’s Toolkit. The Manual of Classification is also available via the Internet at http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/classification. The information in the Manual is updated every 2 months. In addition, the Manual of Classification is archived every June and December in portable document format (PDF) on CD-ROM.
There are over 400 classes in the USPC. Each class has a title descriptive of its subject matter, is identified by a class number, and is subdivided into a number of subclasses. Each subclass also has a descriptive title, is identified by a subclass number, and the subclass number is an integral number that may contain a decimal portion and/or alpha characters. A complete identification of a subclass requires both the class and subclass number and any alpha or decimal designations; e.g., 417/161.1A identifies Class 417, Subclass 161.1A.
The Manual of Classification contains ordered arrangements of all class and subclass titles, the ordered arrangements are referred to as class schedules. The class and subclass titles are brief and are as suggestive as possible of the subject matter included. Therefore, it is best not to depend exclusively upon titles to explain the subject matter encompassed by a class and subclass but to refer also to the respective definitions and notes. If a search is to be expeditious, accurate, and complete, the Manual of Classification should be used only as a key to the class or subclass definition and appended notes.
The Manual of Classification has the following parts:
- (A) Overview of the Classification System.
- (B) Classes Within the U.S. Classification System Arranged by Related Subject Matter: A hierarchical arrangement of class titles organized into four main groups by related subject matter. Only as a last resort should this hierarchical arrangement of class titles, be used to determine document placement, i.e., when none of the other classification criteria, such as comprehensiveness, etc., allow placement. This part also includes an exact hierarchical listing of the synthetic resin and chemical compound classes.
- (C) Classes Arranged by Art Unit (CAAU): A list, in numerical order, by art unit indicating the classification(s) assigned to each.
- (D) Classes Arranged Numerically With Art Unit and Search Room Locations (CAN): A list of classifications in numerical order by class number giving the class title, the art unit to which the art is assigned, and the examiner search room in which the art can be found.
- (E) Classes Arranged in Alphabetical Order (CAA): A list of classes in alphabetical order by class title with associated class numbers.
- (F) Class Schedules: Class schedules for utility patent, design, and plant classes.
902.01(a) Index to the U.S. Patent Classification System
The Index to the U.S. Patent Classification System (USPC) is an alphabetic listing of technical and common terms referring to specific classes and subclasses of the USPC. The index is used as an initial entry into the system and should not be considered exhaustive. All appropriate class schedules should be scanned for specifically related subclasses, and the definitions and associated notes of the pertinent classifications should also be reviewed, even when the citation found in the Index appears to be restricted to a specific subject matter area.
The Index is regularly updated. Suggestions or changes to the Index are encouraged and should be directed to the Technology Center (TC) classification contact in the TCs.
The Index is available online to USPTO personnel from the Classification Home Page – USPC Index. The Classification Home Page (http://ptoweb:8081/) is accessible from the desktop via the Patent Examiner’s Toolkit.
902.02 Class and Subclass Definitions [R-08.2012]
All of the utility classes (i.e., classes devoted to technology), and the plant class have definitions. All design classes will eventually have definitions.
Definitions state the subject matter of the classes and subclasses in much more detail than it is possible to state in the brief class and subclass titles. A study of the definitions is essential to determine the proper classification of subject matter within the U.S. Patent Classification System (USPC).
All classes and subclasses (class definitions) in the USPC are available online to USPTO personnel from the Classification Home Page under the heading Search Classification Data. The Classification Home Page (http://ptoweb:8081/) is accessible from the desktop via the Patent Examiner’s Toolkit. The class definitions are archived in portable document formats (PDFs) to CD-ROM every June and December.
It should be noted that classification orders frequently affect existing definitions. Personal sets of definitions used by examiners should be periodically revised to reflect these changes. Classification Orders are available online to USPTO personnel from the Classification Home Page under the heading Classification Reports. The Classification Home Page is accessible from the desktop via the Patent Examiner’s Toolkit.
902.02(a) Definition Notes
Many of the definitions have accompanying notes. These notes are of two types: (A) notes that supplement definitions by explaining terms or giving examples, and (B) notes referring to related disclosures located in other classes or subclasses.
The latter notes are termed “See or Search” notes and are helpful in explaining the limits of a class or subclass. They generally state the relationship to, and difference from, other identified subject matter collections. Each “See or Search” note helps a user reach a decision either to include or exclude an area containing relevant subject matter.
Search notes are not exhaustive and do not limit the search but suggest additional fields of search . Additionally, since a search note that applies to a particular subclass is rarely repeated for subclasses indented thereunder, it is advisable to review the search notes of all parent subclasses.
902.03 Classification Information [R-08.2012]
Current classification information for U.S. patents is available from the sources indicated below.
902.03(a) Patent Classification Home Page on the Internet
The Office of Patent Classification Home Page address on the Internet is http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/opc/. The site is the clearinghouse for classification information published in hyper-text mark-up language (HTML) and Adobe Acrobat portable document format (PDF) by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The site includes the following in HTML and PDF: (A) the Index to the U.S. Patent Classification system (USPC) (linked from “Classification Index, Patents”); (B) class definitions (linked from “Classification Definitions, Patents”); and (C) class schedules (linked from “Classification Manual, Patents”). The site integrates with the USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database site by allowing a search of a subclass by clicking on a patent icon in the classification schedules and definitions which generates a search result in the USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database. The USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database provides full-text of all US patents issued since January 1, 1976, and full-page images of each page of every US patent issued since 1790. Therefore, it is possible to see every patent in a subclass by browsing the classification schedules using the Classification Home Page in combination with the USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database.
902.03(b) Patent Classification Home Page on the USPTO Intranet
The address for the Patent Classification Home Page on the USPTO Intranet is http://ptoweb:8081/. The Classification Home Page is also accessible from the desktop via the Patent Examiner’s Toolkit. The site is the clearinghouse for classification information published in hyper-text mark-up language (HTML) and Adobe Acrobat portable document format (PDF) by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Examiners and the public are provided with access to identical information for the Index, schedules, and definitions.
The Intranet Classification Home Page site also includes links to international information such as IPC8 Concordance, IPC8 Schedules, IPC8 Catchword Index, WIPO Handbook on Industrial Property Information and Documentation, and to national (U.S.) information such as Overview of the Classification System, Classification Guides and Bulletins, and the Patent Classification Search Page.
The Patent Classification Retrieval System (PCRS) provides Original (OR) and Cross-Reference (XR) classification information for individual patents and listings of patents contained in subclasses. This data is updated bimonthly with new issues, withdrawn patents and reclassifications.
902.03(c) Classification Insight on USPTO Local Area Network (LAN)
The Classification Insight product on the USPTO LAN site is a custom browser that is accessible from the desktop via the Patent Examiner’s Toolkit. The Classification Insight product contains classification schedules and definitions in Adobe Acrobat portable document format (PDF) and various classification documents in a full-text searchable hyperlinked format, as follows:
- (A) Patent Classification Data;
- (B) U.S. Schedules by Class Number;
- (C) U.S. Class Definitions by Class Number;
- (D) US-to-IPC Concordance by Class Number;
- (E) Schedules by Tech Center;
- (F) Definitions by Tech Center;
- (G) Schedules (MoC);
- (H) Definitions;
- (I) US-to-IPC Concordance;
- (J) US-to-Locarno Concordance; and
- (K) PDFs.
902.03(d) Patent Information and Search Tools: the Cassis DVD-ROM Series
Access to a great deal of patent information as well as various search tools is available in the Cassis DVD-ROM series. These include:
- (A) Patents CLASS: Provides a list of all classifications of a patent number and a list of all patent numbers in a classification, showing originals (ORs) and cross-references (XRs).
- (B) Patents BIB: Bibliographic information for utility patents issued since 1969 (other patents, since 1977), and patent application publications since March 15, 2001, including inventor, issue or publication date, title, current classifications, assignee at time of issue, status (withdrawn, reexamined, extended term, certificate of correction issued or expired due to nonpayment of maintenance fee), and abstracts since 1988.
- (C) Patents and Trademarks ASSIGN: Shows assignment of patent and trademarks rights recorded at the USPTO from August 1980 to present.
- (D) Patents ASSIST: This disc provides a variety of files: Manual of Classification; Classification Definitions; Manual of Patent Examining Procedure; Index to the U.S. Patent Classification System; Attorneys and Agents Registered to Practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; Classification Orders Index showing Classes/subclasses abolished or established since 1976; IPC-USPC Concordance; Classification, Art Unit, Supervisory Patent Examiner and Telephone Number (CAST) showing which Art Units examine which art according to classification; and Patentee-Assignee File showing assignment of patent rights at time of issue since 1969 for utility patents (other patents, since 1977), and inventor names since 1975.
The above DVD-ROMs are text-searchable. Search results can be viewed on-screen, printed, or downloaded to diskette. Patents CLASS, Patents BIB, and Patents and Trademarks ASSIGN are updated with new information every two months; Patents ASSIST is updated every three months.
In addition to the text-searchable discs, USAPat offers full facsimile images on DVD-ROM of U.S. patents issued weekly. The backfile includes patents issued since 1790. Intended as a document delivery system, USAPat allows retrieval of patents by document number only. Excellent printed copies can be obtained using a laser printer. USAApp offers full facsimile images on DVD-ROM of U.S. patent application publications beginning with March 15, 2001, and is issued weekly.
902.03(e) Automated Search Tools: EAST and WEST
The automated search tools on examiners’ desktop computers include the Examiner’s Automated Search Tool (EAST), the Web-Based Examiner Search Tool (WEST), and the Foreign Patent Access System (FPAS). EAST and WEST provide examiners with access to the: (A) full text of U.S. published applications since 2001 ; (B) full text of U.S. patents granted since 1970 ; and (C) optically scanned full text of U.S. patents granted 1920-1970. Additionally, EAST and WEST each provide current classification information and images for all U.S. published applications and patents. Images are available for foreign patent documents, and English language abstracts are available for many foreign patent documents published since 1978 using the automated search tools. Specific instructions for gaining access to the various documents available using the automated search tools can be found in the “Patent Automation” folder in Microsoft Outlook and on the EAST, WEST, and BRS Search Strategy web pages on the Intranet, available on the examiners’ desktop computers.
The EAST and WEST products are also available to users in the Patent Search Room at the USPTO.
902.04 Classification Orders [R-08.2012]
Classification orders are issued monthly; each order details the changes resulting from a classification project effective that month.
Since classification projects issue monthly throughout the year, orders are used to bridge the gap between the time a project issues and the time the other search tools (Manual of Classification, Index to the U.S. Patent Classification System, Classification Definitions) are updated.
A classification order includes the following:
- (A) New class schedules and/or changes to existing class schedules necessitated by the project;
- (B) Source and Disposition lists showing how the old art has been distributed into the newly established subclasses;
- (C) A revised concordance showing the relationship between the newly established subclasses and their International Patent Classification (IPC) counterparts; and
- (D) Necessary changes to the definitions that corroborate the changes in the schedules
Copies of classification orders are available online to USPTO personnel from the Classification Home Page under the heading Classification Reports. The Classification Home Page (http://ptoweb:8081/) is accessible from the desktop via the Patent Examiner’s Toolkit.
902.04(a) Reclassification Alert Report
The Reclassification Alert Report is updated quarterly and is available online to USPTO personnel from the Classification Home Page under the heading Classification Reports. The Classification Home Page (http://ptoweb:8081/) is accessible from the desktop via the Patent Examiner’s Toolkit. The report numerically lists the classes and subclasses affected by classification orders which issued during the quarter, indicating if the classifications were established, were abolished, or had definition changes.