Cooperative Patent Classification

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The Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) is a patent classification system, which has been jointly developed by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).[1] The CPC is substantially based on the previous European classification system (ECLA), which itself was a more specific and detailed version of the International Patent Classification (IPC) system.


This patent classification system is used by both the EPO and USPTO since 1 January 2013. It has replaced the ECLA system[1] and will replace by 2015[2] the United States Patent Classification system (USPC) as the official patent classification scheme of both the EPO and the USPTO.

The patent offices of several EPO member states also use CPC, for example those of Austria, Finland, Greece, the United Kingdom, Spain and Sweden.[citation needed]

On 4 June 2013, the Chinese State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) agreed with the EPO that as of January 2014, SIPO will start classifying its newly published patent applications in some selected technical fields into the CPC after receiving dedicated training from the EPO, and will strive to classify its new patent applications according to the CPC in all technical areas from January 2016. The corresponding classification data is expected to be shared with the EPO.[3][4]

On 5 June 2013, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) announced the launch of a new pilot in which KIPO will classify some of its patent documents using the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system.[4][5] The pilot between KIPO and the USPTO is said to mark a major first step towards KIPO classifying its patent collection using the CPC.[5]

On 26 September 2013, the EPO and the Russian Federal Service for Intellectual Property (Rospatent) signed an agreement which concerns the classification of patent documents. Under this agreement, as of January 2016, Rospatent will start to classify into the CPC patent documents currently being processed, and begin to classify the volume of already published patent documentation as of 2017. The corresponding classification data will be shared with the EPO.[6]


Patent publications are each assigned at least one classification term indicating the subject to which the invention relates and may also be assigned further classification and indexing terms to give further details of the contents.

Each classification term consists of a symbol such as "A01B33/00" (which represents "tilling implements with rotary driven tools"). The first letter is the "section symbol" consisting of a letter from "A" ("Human Necessities") to "H" ("Electricity") or "Y" for emerging cross-sectional technologies. This is followed by a two digit number to give a "class symbol" ("A01" represents "Agriculture; forestry; animal husbandry; trapping; fishing"). The final letter makes up the "subclass" (A01B represents "Soil working in agriculture or forestry, parts, details, or accessories of agricultural machines or implements, in general"). The subclass is then followed by a 1 to 3 digit "group" number, an oblique stroke and a number of at least two digits representing a "main group" ("00") or "subgroup". A patent examiner assigns a classification to the patent application or other document at the most detailed level which is applicable to its contents.

A01B CPC scheme
A01B CPC Definition
A: Human Necessities
B: Operations and Transport
C: Chemistry and Metallurgy
D: Textiles
E: Fixed Constructions
F: Mechanical Engineering
G: Physics
H: Electricity
Y: Emerging Cross-Sectional Technologies

This classification closely follows the International Patent Classification.[7]

An example of the CPC classification scheme[8] in the area of agriculture is shown in the attached figure.

The text in curly brackets {..} refers to text provided by the CPC classification scheme. The rest of the text refers to text originating from the International Patent Classification.

The CPC scheme is accompanied by a set of CPC Definitions,[8] which are documents which explain how to use the CPC scheme for classifying and searching a specific technology. A part of the CPC Definition related to the scheme A01B is shown in the second figure.

Structure hierarchy[edit]

  • Section (one letter A to H and also Y)
    • Class (two digits)
      • Subclass (one letter)
        • Group (one to three digits)
          • Main group and subgroups (at least two digits)

In the above example "A01B33/00"

  • Section A
    • Class 01
      • Subclass B
        • Group 33
          • Main group 00


  1. ^ a b CPC replaces ECLA on Espacenet, Patent Information News issue 4/2012, December 2012, p. 4.
  2. ^ Kisliuk, Bruce (September 27, 2012). "Introduction to the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC); EPO and USPTO Bi-lateral Classification System" (PDF). USPTO. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  3. ^ "Europe and China agree to use same patent classification system (CPC)". European Patent Office. 4 June 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  4. ^ a b "SIPO and KIPO to classify using the CPC" (PDF). Patent Information News (European Patent Office) (2, June 2013): p. 12. Retrieved June 23, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "USPTO and KIPO Announce Launch of Cooperative Patent Classification System Pilot". USPTO. 5 June 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
  6. ^ "Co-operation with Russia and Eurasian region intensifies: Language barrier in patent information removed". EPO. 26 September 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-26. 
  7. ^ "The Cooperative Patent Classification Introduction to the CPC". EPO. 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  8. ^ a b "CPC Scheme and Definitions". EPO & USPTO. 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-09. 

External links[edit]