Background on the Strasbourg Agreement concerning the International Classification of Patents (1971)

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Background on the Strasbourg Agreement concerning the International Classification of Patents (1971)

The Strasbourg Agreement establishes the International Patent Classification (IPC) system that divides inventions into eight categories with approximately 80,000 classification codes. Each group is represented by a symbol consisting of Arabic numerals and the letters of the Latin alphabet.

Appropriate IPC symbols are indicated on patent documents (published patent applications and granted patents), of which more than 2 million patents are issued each year.

The appropriate symbols are issued by the national industrial property office or patent-related document issuing authority. Patents from all contracting countries (and from other countries as well) are classified in at least one classification code to which the invention relates and may also be further classified for greater detail.

For PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) patent applications, IPC symbols are assigned by the International Searching Authority.

Although only 64 States are parties to the Agreement, the IPC is used by the patent offices of more than 100 Countries, four regional offices, and the WIPO Secretariat in the administration of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) (1970).

IPC is continuously revised and updated with a new version that takes effect every year on January 1. Currently, IPC includes 8 main items from A-H:

A: Essential human need

B: Operation, transportation

C: Chemistry, metallurgy

D: Textile, paper

E: Fixed construction

F: Mechanics, lighting, heating systems, weapons

G: Physics

H: Electricity

The hierarchies of the International Patent Classification are as follows: Item – Class – Subclass – Main Group – Subheading. Each invention will be grouped and has its own international patent classification index, for example A61N1/24.

Amendments to the IPC are carried out by the IPC Committee of Experts established under the Agreement. All States party to the Agreement are members of the Committee of Experts.

In the first 7 versions of the IPC, the IPC classification was updated approximately every 5 years on average. From version 8, effective January 1, 2006, the classification system has been divided into two levels: “basic” and “advanced” levels.

In which, the “basic” level is updated on a 3-year basis. The “advanced” level offers a more detailed classification and is updated more often about every three months.

The Strasbourg Agreement created a Union with a Council. Every country that is a member of the Union is a member of the Council. One of the Council’s most important tasks is to approve the Union’s biennial program and budget.

The IPC system was signed in 1971 and revised in 1979. The system is open to States parties to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883). Instruments of ratification or accession shall be deposited with the Director General of WIPO.

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