International Patent Classification System is Upgraded to Enhance Retrieval, Recognition and Delivery of Patent Information

Geneva, March 1, 2005
Press Updates UPD/2005/244

A committee of international experts meeting at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva from February 14 to 18, 2005, endorsed a series of reforms of an international system for classifying patents which promises to significantly reduce the patent search workload of industrial property offices of WIPO member states by providing tools for easier and more efficient retrieval and delivery of patent-related information. Reform of the system, known as the International Patent Classification (IPC) system, will ensure consistent search results and their mutual recognition by industrial property offices. The committee of experts which has been responsible for undertaking the reform process since its launch, at WIPO's initiative, in 1999, welcomed the successful conclusion of the IPC reform process which is designed to enhance the usefulness of the system as a global patent information resource. The Committee of Experts also approved plans for the publication of the new, eighth edition of the IPC. The new reformed IPC will enter into force on January 1, 2006.

The IPC is a hierarchical system in which technology as a whole is divided into a range of sections, classes, subclasses and groups. This system is an indispensable tool for industrial property offices in their search to establish the novelty of an invention or to determine the state of the art in a particular area of technology.

IPC reform has enabled: the adaptation of the system to technological developments and the electronic environment; the creation of universal search tools for all industrial property offices; and a global system for generating, processing and distributing information relating to patent classifications.

This latest series of reforms, which have been steadily formulated over the six year period from 1999 to 2005, have resulted in a number of fundamental changes to the structure and methods of revision and use of the IPC, as follows:

  • The IPC has been divided into two levels - a core and advanced level - to better satisfy 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 Internet version of the IPC has been enhanced 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.
  • The revision of the core level will be done every three years and the advanced level will follow an accelerated procedure under the supervision of a special subcommittee to allow for the rapid introduction into the IPC of changes brought about by technological developments.
  • The most up-to-date version of the IPC will be available 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 will be available 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.

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 in 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.

For further information, please contact the Media Relations and Public Affairs Section at WIPO:

  • Tel: (+41 22) 338 81 61 or (+41 22) 338 95 47;
  • E-mail:
  • Fax: (+41 22) 338 88 10.