World-standard classification system

Finding the most relevant prior art is vital for the quality of patent search. An effective classification system structures prior art using well-defined concepts in a way that is language-independent, making searches more efficient.

Following years of preparation, the EPO and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) on 1 January 2013. The CPC is a common refined classification scheme based on the EPO's ECLA (European patent classification scheme), which was used prior to 2013.

Since then, the CPC has become the world standard in patent classification. In 2022, five further offices adopted the CPC as their internal classification system: Peru, Belgium, Monaco, Italy and Luxembourg. At the end of 2022, the CPC community stood at 38 offices, 21 of these being European Patent Organisation member states.

The CPC scheme is maintained up-to-date by the EPO and USPTO.

In recent years the EPO has been using AI to pre-classify files internally, and the results show that that we can improve routing of files to the correct examiner team by further expanding the use of AI.

For more information, please see the Quality Report 2022.