A Guide to the CPC Search Tool on Espacenet

We’ve been following the development and roll-out of the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) over the past year, from the initial release of the CPC scheme to a guide describing how major patent search systems will integrate the CPC into their search features. The CPC has already replaced ECLA as of January 1, 2013, and the Espacenet search system has been updated to reflect these changes. The CPC replaces ECLA in the classification section under the Advanced search form on Espacenet, and the CPC search tool is now available on Espacenet under the “Classification search” option.  The tool allows users to keyword search or browse through the CPC hierarchy, view code definitions, notes, and warnings, and select codes to add to the Advanced search form or use to search directly for patent records.

Continue reading for a visual guide to every feature within the CPC search tool on Espacenet!

From the Espacenet homepage, users can access the CPC search tool by selecting the “Classification search” option in the vertical menu on the left side of the page (below the “Smart search” and “Advanced search” options).  Once the user opens the CPC search tool, a number of quick help links and a clipboard displaying all selected classifications will be displayed below the search menu, as shown in the screenshot below.

Access the CPC search tool by selecting the "Classification search" option.

Access the CPC search tool by selecting the “Classification search” option.

To the right of the search menu, the Cooperative Patent Classification hierarchy is displayed in a collapsed format, with a keyword search form, links to access all main sections of the CPC, and a variety of buttons shown above the hierarchy display.  Keywords (up to 10 keywords in English) can be entered in the search form, and all relevant classifications related to a keyword will be displayed (in a collapsed format) below the search form. The search form accepts Boolean operators and wildcards like *, ?, and #.  Up to five stars will be displayed beside a relevant classification after a keyword search, and more relevant classifications (with more stars) will appear at the top of the list.  The classifications can be expanded to view all narrower codes by selecting the small arrow to the left of the classification symbol and definition.

A user may also enter a classification symbol within the search form, although only one symbol can be entered at a time. After entering a classification symbol in the search form, the symbol will appear below the search form at its location in the classification hierarchy.  All narrower classification codes below the symbol will be automatically expanded.

Select any of the section links (A-Y) beside the keyword search form to view a collapsed list of all main classification codes in that section, and further expand the hierarchy of the section by selecting a main code to view narrower codes.

A collapsed version of the CPC hierarchy, with keyword/symbol search and browsing options.

A collapsed version of the CPC hierarchy, with keyword/symbol search and browsing options.

The buttons displayed below the search form can be used to alter the display of the CPC classifications and hierarchy.  Mouse over each button to view a brief description of its purpose.  The following buttons are available for the CPC search tool:

  • Flip symbols (left or right) – Select the left or right button to switch the classification symbols (and check boxes) to the left or right side of the table.  During testing, the check boxes didn’t appear to work properly when the symbols were flipped to the right side of the table.
Use these buttons to flip the symbols to the left or sight side of the hierarchy table.

Use these buttons to flip the symbols to the left or sight side of the hierarchy table.

  • Toggle tree – Select to view the hierarchy in dot format (more dots indicates a narrower class) or tree format (lines indicate the parent-child relationships between classes).
These  buttons can be used to view the hierarchy in dot format (left) or tree format (right).

These buttons can be used to view the hierarchy in dot format (left) or tree format (right).

  • Toggle notes and warnings always visible – Select this button to display the full text of all notes (blue text) and notes (orange text).  Even if this button is turned off, small icons beside the classification will indicate the presence of a note/warning and can be selected to expand the note/warning text. Additional icons beside a classification, such as a small “S” icon displayed in the screenshot below, currently only open a new browser tab displaying an error message.
Select this button to hide notes and warnings  (top) or make notes and warning always visible (bottom).

Select this button to hide notes and warnings (top) or make notes and warning always visible (bottom).

  • Toggle scheme colors (IPC vs CPC) – Selecting this button will highlight all new CPC text in green, while the original IPC text remains un-highlighted.
Use this button to view original IPC definition text and new CPC definition text (highlighted in green).

Use this button to view original IPC definition text and new CPC definition text (highlighted in green).

  • Toggle dates – View or hide the revision date beside a classification.
Use this button to hide revision dates (top) or display revision dates (bottom).

Use this button to hide revision dates (top) or display revision dates (bottom).

  • Toggle references – Use this button to expand or hide the additional reference text for a classification. Even when this button is turned off, the availability of reference text is indicated by the (…) icon, which can be selected to expand the reference text for that classification.
Use this button to hide reference text (top) or display the full reference text (bottom).

Use this button to hide reference text (top) or display the full reference text (bottom).

  • Toggle 2000-series – View or hide the CPC 2000 indexing area. According to the Espacenet homepage, “this indexing area largely stems from the EPO’s former ICO codes and controlled keywords (KWs).”
Use this button to display the CPC 2000 indexing area.

Display the CPC 2000 indexing area.

After locating a relevant classification symbol within the hierarchy and customizing the display using the buttons described above, the user can add the relevant classifications to the “Selected classifications” clipboard by clicking the check box beside a classification.  Selecting a classification check box will automatically select the check boxes of all narrower classifications, and the code listed on the clipboard will include the label “/low” to indicate the inclusion of all narrower classifications.

Select a check box beside a code to add that classification and all child classifications to the clipboard.

Select a check box beside a code to add that classification and all child classifications to the clipboard.

The user can select the code on the clipboard and switch the label from “/low” to “/exact”, in order to only include the specific classification code within any searches conducted from the clipboard, without the inclusion of narrower classifications.

Switch the selected classification from "low" (all child classifications included) to "exact" (only the exact selected code).

Switch the selected classification from “low” (all child classifications included) to “exact” (only the exact selected code).

Selecting the “/exact” label will automatically de-select all narrower classifications in the hierarchy table.

An exact search of a classification will only search the selected code, excluding all child classifications.

An exact search of a classification will only search the selected code, excluding all child classifications.

After selecting all relevant codes to add to the clipboard, the user can then select to search within the Worldwide database on Espacenet for records containing  all selected classifications by choosing the “Find patents” option on the clipboard.  The user will automatically be taken to the search result list.

Choose "Find patents" to search for the codes directly on Espacenet, and go directly to patent search results.

Choose “Find patents” to search for records listing the codes within the Worldwide database patent collection, and go directly to patent search results.

The user can also select the “Copy to search form” option on the clipboard to enter all selected classifications into the CPC section of the Advanced search form.  This option allows the user to add additional terms to the query within the Advanced search form before conducting the search with the selected CPC codes.

Choose "Copy to search form" to enter the selected codes in the Advanced search form.

Choose “Copy to search form” to enter the selected codes in the Advanced search form.

Conclusion

The new CPC search tool improves upon the old ECLA search tool by adding a number of useful display features, including the option to view the hierarchy in tree or dot format and the option to highlight the new CPC text. Users can also select whether they want to include all narrower classifications when copying relevant codes to the clipboard.  Some bugs are still visible in this new tool, such as the icons that currently only open tabs containing error messages and the inability to select check boxes when the classification symbols are flipped to the right side of the table.  Despite these small issues, this tool is still an important new feature on Espacenet that will come in handy for professional patent searchers using the CPC during prior art searches.

What do you think of the new CPC search tool on Espacenet? Let us know in the comments!

Patent Searches from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

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4 Responses

  1. Very helpful. So where is the US class to CPC concordance table?

    • I don’t believe a USPC-to-CPC concordance tool is available yet. All I could find was the USPC to IPC concordance tool here and the “ECLA to CPC to IPC” concordance chart here. The USPC-to-IPC concordance tool will probably appear on the same page as the USPC to IPC concordance tool when it is finally released.

  2. I’ve found this useful: from – http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/classification/

    Enter a US class and subclass in the search boxes, then below select “Statistical Mapping from USPC to CPC”

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