What is The Cooperative Patent Classification?

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What is The Cooperative Patent Classification?

The Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) is an internationally recognized patent classification system developed jointly by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The CPC aims to harmonize the patent classification systems used by these offices, providing a common platform for patent examiners and the public to access and search patent information effectively.


The CPC system is based on the International Patent Classification (IPC) system, which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It offers a more detailed and comprehensive classification scheme by extending the IPC codes with additional subdivisions. This allows for more precise categorization and easier retrieval of patent documents.

Structure of CPC

The CPC system is hierarchical, comprising sections, classes, subclasses, groups, and subgroups. The top level consists of nine sections, each identified by a letter from A to H and Y:

  • A - Human Necessities
  • B - Performing Operations; Transporting
  • C - Chemistry; Metallurgy
  • D - Textiles; Paper
  • E - Fixed Constructions
  • F - Mechanical Engineering; Lighting; Heating; Weapons; Blasting
  • G - Physics
  • H - Electricity
  • Y - General Tagging of New Technological Developments

Each section is further divided into classes, subclasses, groups, and subgroups, creating a detailed and organized classification system. For example, the code CPC_G06Q refers to data processing systems or methods specially adapted for administrative, commercial, financial, managerial, supervisory, or forecasting purposes.

Benefits of CPC

The CPC system offers several advantages:

1. **Enhanced Searchability**: The detailed structure of CPC allows for more precise patent searches, enabling users to locate relevant patent documents more efficiently. 2. **Global Harmonization**: By aligning the classification systems of the EPO and USPTO, the CPC promotes international cooperation and simplifies the patent examination process. 3. **Comprehensive Coverage**: CPC covers a wide range of technological fields, providing comprehensive access to patent information across diverse industries. 4. **Consistency**: The standardized classification system ensures consistency in patent examination and documentation, facilitating better comparison and analysis of patent data.

How to Use CPC

Patent applicants, examiners, and researchers can use the CPC system to classify and search for patent documents. The CPC codes can be found on patent documents, and various online tools and databases, such as Espacenet and the USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database (PatFT), support CPC-based searches.

Comparison with IPC

While the CPC is based on the IPC system, it offers more detailed subdivisions and additional codes, making it more specific and useful for certain technological fields. The IPC remains the primary classification system for international patent documentation, but the CPC provides an enhanced tool for patent offices and users requiring more granularity.


The Cooperative Patent Classification is a critical tool for the global patent system, facilitating efficient patent searches, harmonizing international patent classification practices, and supporting the work of patent examiners and researchers. Its detailed and structured approach helps in the effective management and retrieval of patent information.

External Links

Questions about The Cooperative Patent Classification

What are the main differences between CPC and IPC?

The CPC system extends the IPC by adding more detailed subdivisions and codes, allowing for more precise classification. While the IPC serves as the primary international classification system, the CPC provides additional granularity, especially useful for patent offices and detailed patent searches.

How does CPC improve patent searching?

CPC enhances patent searching by offering a more detailed classification structure, enabling users to perform more precise and targeted searches. This helps in quickly locating relevant patent documents and conducting thorough prior art searches.

Can CPC be used internationally?

Yes, the CPC is used internationally and is recognized by major patent offices around the world. It harmonizes the classification systems of the EPO and USPTO, facilitating international cooperation and standardization in patent classification.

What resources are available for learning CPC?

Several resources are available for learning about CPC, including the official CPC website, training materials from the EPO and USPTO, and online databases like Espacenet that provide CPC-based search functionalities. These resources offer guidelines, tutorials, and examples to help users understand and utilize the CPC system effectively.

How often is the CPC updated?

The CPC is regularly updated to reflect technological advancements and changes in the patent landscape. Updates are typically released multiple times a year, and users can access the latest version through the official CPC website and related patent office resources.