International Patent Classification System Upgraded
The Committee of Experts of the International Patent Classification (IPC) system met from February 14 to 18 to endorse a series of reforms to the system. These will provide tools for easier and more efficient retrieval and delivery of patent-related information, which will significantly reduce the patent search workload of industrial property offices. The reforms will ensure that search results are consistent and are mutually recognized by industrial property offices. This marks the successful conclusion of the IPC reform process, launched in 1999 to enhance the usefulness of the system as a global patent information resource.
The IPC is a hierarchical system, which allows every field of technology to be divided into a range of sections, classes, subclasses and groups. It is an indispensable tool for industrial property offices when conducting searches to establish the novelty of an invention or to determine the state of the art in a particular area of technology. IPC reforms have adapted the system to technological developments and the electronic environment; created universal search tools for all industrial property offices; and established a global system for generating, processing and distributing information relating to patent classifications.
This latest reforms introduce fundamental changes as follows:
- Division of the IPC into two levels – a core and advanced level – to meet the differing needs of small and large offices. Smaller offices will use the relatively simple and stable core level, and larger offices will use the more complex and dynamic advanced level.
- An enhanced Internet version to facilitate classification and search. This will include definitions of classifications, structured chemical formulae and other images, and definitions of technical terms to illustrate and explain IPC entries.
- Revision of the core level every three years; and an accelerated procedure for the advanced level, under the supervision of a special subcommittee, to allow the rapid introduction of changes brought about by technological developments.
- Availability of the most up-to-date version of the IPC for patent searches, as all patent collections will be reclassified on the basis of the changes introduced into that version.
- Access to the worldwide collection of patent documents through the Master Classification Database (MCD), which is being created using databases of the European Patent Office (EPO). The documents included in the MCD will be classified according to the current version of the IPC and will be periodically reclassified in line with future revision of the IPC.
The Committee also approved plans for the publication of the new, eighth edition of the IPC. The reformed IPC will enter into force on January 1, 2006. Both the Internet version (including the complete IPC text) and printed versions of the core level of the latest (eighth) edition of the IPC will be available in English and French from June 2005. Additional material, such as catchword indexes and a new version of the IPC:CLASS CD-ROM will also be published later in 2005. Advanced publication of the eighth edition of the IPC will give industrial property offices sufficient time to bring their systems in line with the new IPC structure.
Casablanca Consultations on Future Work of the SCP
WIPO Director General Kamil Idris, as part of an ongoing process of discussions with Member States on patent harmonization, convened informal consultations on February 16 in Casablanca, Morocco, to discuss the future work of the Standing Committee on Patents (SCP). The SCP is seeking to build consensus on a treaty to harmonize patent laws around the world.
“The Casablanca consultations were very positive and fruitful and resulted in a boost for the whole work program of WIPO, particularly substantive patent law, traditional knowledge, folklore and issues related to genetic resources and the proposed WIPO Development Agenda,” Dr. Idris said. “The constructive approach taken during the consultations will, I believe, go a long way in resolving outstanding issues in all these important areas and demonstrates a commitment to multilateralism.”
The informal consultations – one aspect of the Director General’s continuing efforts to seek consensus on the issue – produced a proposed action plan for the near future. Participants broadly agreed that the objectives of the future work program of the SCP should improve the quality of granted patents, thus avoiding unwarranted encroachments on the public domain; and to reduce unnecessary duplication of work among Patent Offices, which should produce benefits by making the patent system more accessible and cost-effective.
The meeting proposed that six issues be addressed in an accelerated manner within WIPO with a view to progressive development and codification of international IP law: prior art, grace period, novelty, inventive step, sufficiency of disclosure and genetic resources. The first four issues should be addressed in the SCP, while the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) should in parallel address sufficiency of disclosure and genetic resources. The SCP and the IGC would agree on a timetable and keep each other informed of progress.
In the concluding statement, participants underlined “the importance of the continued active pursuit of discussions and work within WIPO on issues related to development and intellectual property so that a robust, effective and actionable WIPO Development Agenda could emerge.”
The meeting recommended that the Director General convene the next session of the SCP and of the IGC in May and June 2005 respectively in order to consider the proposals. The decisions of these committees would then be transmitted to the next General Assembly in September 2005.