Monday, October 1, 2012

USPTO & EPO Announce CPC Early Publication

The first mid-air plane collision, Milan, Italy.
Source: Popular Mechanics, January 1911 

On September 28, 2012, the USPTO issued its latest press release on the Cooperative Patent Classification project.  It stated,
"The U.S. Commerce Department’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) today announced early publication of a classification system meant to speed the patent granting process for applicants to both Offices. The Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system and finalized CPC definitions are now available in advance of the January 1, 2013, official launch. The CPC is a joint USPTO-EPO project aimed at developing a common classification system for technical documents in particular patent publications, which will be used by both offices in the patent granting process...
"The CPC system, which includes approximately 250,000 classification symbols based on the International Patent Classification (IPC) system, will enable users to conduct efficient prior art searches and incorporate the best classification practices of both the U.S. and European systems. It will also enhance efficiency through work-sharing initiatives designed to reduce unnecessary duplication of work."
Information newly available on the CPC site includes a “launch package” including “the complete CPC system, any finalized CPC definitions and a CPC-to-IPC concordance.”  We commend the CPC folks given that the early news was that the information was going to be used in house and would not be available for public distribution at this point.

As noted in our August 7, 2012 Inkling post, the CPC will drastically change the way US patents are classified, examined, and placed with prior art. Despite statements to the contrary, it appears that in implementing the system, USPTO has abdicated its responsibility for the historic US patent system and essentially allowed European patent offices to set the rules by which the US will now play.

The significant changes in US patent law and procedure implemented within the past year — America Invents Act, which switched the US from its long-standing ‘first-to-invent’ to a ‘first-to-file’ system, — coupled with implementation of the CPC which changes the classification system from one focused on the claims, to one focused, "on the invention in light of the claims" (the EPO approach) will lead to unintended consequences. Unless these transitions are handled deftly there will be many more articles and blog posts about the ‘broken’, ‘wrecked’, or otherwise fundamentally impaired US patent system.  As First to File under AIA and the CPC take off, we'll wish USPTO and EPO well while watching as the events unfold.