United States Patent Classification System has finally exited the realm of active classification schemes, following its European colleague ECLA into retirement. Its last day on the job at the USPTO was December 31, 2014.

In its place, both the European Patent Office and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are now employing the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC), the future-adapted child of the International Patent Classification.

The CPC seems to be working well. The USPC has just retired. But of course, it’s never easy to bid goodbye to an old and trusted colleague, and many of us are likely to miss the comfort of its eccentricities.

Still, if we are to truly embrace the power of CPC, we need to understand what life after USPC means. Here are three key things that patent researchers should know about CPC implementation:

1. Key Dates

The CPC has been in development since late 2010, but the most significant events for patent researchers occur between 2013 and 2015. Between the CPC’s activation as a working classification system and the retirement of the USPC, there are some important dates and transition periods to keep in mind while searching.

2. CPC is Catching On

The CPC scheme is no longer just a joint venture between the EPO and USPTO. Other patent-granting authorities have begun directly classifying their own national office documents using CPC. Four of the five IP5 countries have now committed to using CPC to classify patent documents.

With more and more patent-granting authorities using CPC to classify documents, and given the finely grained nature of the CPC system, CPC will become an increasingly important tool for retrieving documents, particularly when searching across multiple patent authorities in multiple languages.

The USPTO and EPO will also continue to classify documents using IPC, but because the IPC is a less detailed classification system than CPC, CPC will be a preferred tool for retrieving search result sets of a manageable size.

3. The CPC Changes (Frequently)

The CPC is actively being revised, updated, tweaked and developed. The USPTO and EPO have shown commitment to ongoing revision of the CPC throughout the year. In 2015 alone, there have been change announcements to the CPC scheme nearly every month.

At least for the time being, the CPC is a vibrant, living classification system: one that at least attempts to respond to the rapidity of current technological change.

Retirement can be a little unsettling. And not just for those who retire. If you have been pining for the return of the USPC, download the whitepaper for more on the transition to CPC.

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