Yesterday, while having a conversation about a related subject and without much prompting, I went on a several minute filibuster about the future of unified patent classification. The main prompt for this tangent was the latest news (hat tip to The Patent Librarian Blog for the short and sweet PR roundup) that indicates progress toward the new Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system between the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO). However, I can’t attribute all of my enthusiasm to the latest news cycle–I had to admit that I’m just a nerd about patent classification. Let me explain why…
1. Patent classification is the future – As I touched upon in the intro, the upcoming CPC is a reason to be excited for the future of patent information and patent searching. A meeting of the minds over how patent information will be classified and tagged is ripe with possibilities. How much will the new system be like the existing ECLA system from the EPO? Which “best practices” from the USPTO will be incorporated? I’m excited to see how it will all shake out. No matter what, I like the chances that we’ll all benefit from this new unified system, since homogeneous data tends to be easier to work with than heterogeneous data (you’ll recall our frustration last week).
2. Patent classification is the past – This excellent thread over at the Patent Information Users Group Wiki turned into a veritable episode of Scooby Doo, with patent information experts weighing in on how to solve a vexing mystery. The issue at hand related to no-longer-active US Classification subclasses and I encourage you to read the correspondence for the thrilling conclusion (although no ghosts were unmasked, per se). I appreciate that patent classification efforts have a history to them, and it’s always interesting for me to read and study the bygone systems in the same way that I’m intrigued by fallen empires. We can learn from no-longer-active classification systems just as we can learn from history in other regards.
3. Patent classification allows us to learn from intelligent people – Classifications are applied (or verified, as the case may be) by incredibly intelligent and qualified people in their respective technical fields. In the case of third party classification systems such as the special indexing in Derwent World Patents Index or Inspec, these classifications are applied by a specialized curatorial staff. Using those designations as a starting point for a prior art search can be invaluable for the sake of convenience in a field in which one is familiar, or for the sake of introduction in a field in which one is unfamiliar. I would be a fool not to take advantage of the years of knowledge someone was offering to me!
4. Patent classification allows us to develop searching techniques – To go along with the strategy of starting a prior art search with classification investigation, there are many many other techniques for using classification in a search. We’ve written about this subject several times on the Intellogist® Blog (and I’m quite sure this won’t be the last). The joy of practicing and developing a skill is something I certainly appreciate, and utilizing patent classification is no different from working on my jump shot in that regard.
5. Patent classification is a natural extension of who we are – Okay, stay with me here…I believe classification is ingrained in us. Growing up we’re taught to identify and categorize things into groups in school. Prior to that, we naturally learn to distinguish our parents’ faces from the face of a stranger. It’s in our being to try and identify and understand the world around us. Since Aristotle’s system of categories we’ve striven to understand our world through categorization. Patent classification is a continuation of this concept that helps us identify and understand ideas. If that’s not a big picture statement on why I’m passionate about patent classification, I don’t know what is!
I hope you enjoyed hearing me geek out about patent classification and why I love it. Do you love it too? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading!
This post was contributed by Intellogist Team member Chris Jagalla. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company, Landon IP, a major provider of patent search, technical translation, and information services.