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Washington and Munich -- The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) have agreed to work toward the formation of a joint patent classification system. Unlike other major patent document classification systems, the U.S. patent classification system is not based on the International Patent Classification (IPC) system because it predates the IPC. One of the goals of the partnership is to align the U.S. and the EPO classification systems with the IPC, which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialized agency of the United Nations. The jointly developed classification system will be more detailed than the IPC to improve patent searching. As a result, the two offices would move closer to eliminating the unnecessary duplication of work between the two offices, thus promoting more efficient examinations, while also enhancing patent examination quality.
The Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, Mr. David Kappos, and the President of the EPO, Mr. Benoît Battistelli, today issued the following joint statement:
"In view of the significant benefit to stakeholders of developing a transparent and harmonized approach to a global classification system for patent documents; in order to make the search process more effective; and in the belief that cooperation between their two offices will facilitate progress in undertaking classification harmonization projects under the IP5 Common Hybrid Classification initiative, the USPTO and the EPO have agreed together to work toward the formation of a partnership to explore the development of a joint classification system based on the European Classification system (ECLA) that will incorporate the best classification practices of the two offices. This system would be aligned with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) classification standards and the International Patent Classification (IPC) structure. Accordingly, they have initiated discussions on governance and operational aspects of such a partnership.
The IP5 partner offices will be continually apprised of progress at appropriate IP5 forums. Stakeholders will receive regular updates on the substance and progress of classification partnership discussions between the two offices."
This is a milestone achievement in the so-called Five IP Offices (IP5) co-operation as it will allow the IP5 offices to move toward the Common Hybrid Classification, one of the ten Foundation Projects of the IP5 which were devised to harmonize the search and examination environment of each office and to standardize the information-sharing process. Further information on the Foundation Projects is available at www.fiveipoffices.org.