EPO classification work leads to new international standard

28 January 2011

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The system introduced and used by the EPO to tag patent applications in the field of nanotechnology has now been accepted internationally under the International Patent Classification (IPC) system. From now on all patent offices worldwide will classify nanotechnology under the new symbol B82Y, building on the EPO's internal Y01N coding system which was specifically created by the Office as no scheme under the IPC was available to capture all nanotechnology-related technologies and applications.

"The introduction of a new international classification subclass to capture the diverse aspects and applications of nanotechnology is recognition of the EPO's pro-active efforts to align the worldwide classification system for patents with the information needs of researchers, innovators and patent experts in promising emerging technologies. It improves public access to information on these fields and so creates a significant benefit for the whole patent system and its users", said EPO President Benoît Battistelli.

The new symbol further enhances the quality of the patent classification system and also enables easy retrieval of relevant patent documents in this important technical area. Moreover, the EPO has committed itself to providing for those offices using the IPC a re-classification of all pertinent nanotechnology documents published before 2011 and listed in its own internal ECLA collection.

More generally, the EPO introduced its Y-classification section specifically to provide a new, user-friendly overview and context for important technological developments that cannot be captured in a dedicated section of the existing IPC/ECLA scheme. This is especially the case where, due to its character, a new technology would be spread over several classes or even sections. 

The successful experience with nanotechnology led to the adoption of a similar methodology for the capturing of relevant patents in the field of clean energy technologies (Y02). This entailed significant reclassification work with more than 200 new categories being introduced, compared to six in the case of nanotechnology. This considerable involvement of the EPO has been the result of a joint project with UNEP and the ICTSD to clarify technology transfer issues in the ongoing climate change negotiations at the UNFCCC.

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