Patent Classification Systems

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Patent classification is used by the various patent offices around the world to ensure an ordered way of patent information arrangement whether the information consists of patent applications or registered patents. The patent classification system of one country is not necessarily the same as used in another country, but there is a general trend of using internationally agreed classification systems for uniformity and easy of information retrieval. One should take note that a single invention can be filed under numerous classes. The patent classification system is standardised to ensure usability. If it wasn’t the case, one would struggle to find the information again. The IPC, which stands for the International Patent Classification system is used worldwide. There are also other classification systems in use such as the ECLA which is the European Classification system used by the European Patent Office and which is also an adaptation of the International Patent Classification system.

The IPC came into being as the outcome of the 1971 Strasbourg Agreement and it consists of specific symbols used for the arrangement of patents and also models according the area of technology. In the United States a specific office manages the patent classification system. South Africa also makes use and acknowledges the IPC system. The idea behind arrangement of documents in classes regarding the specific format and also area of technology is also to ensure that the classifiers, librarians and any person working with patents will have a standardised method of arranging documents. It is also done to ensure that information stored can be retrieved again. It certainly does help if a person is familiar with how the various patent classification systems work.