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Patent Classes and Technologies

Patent applications and issued patents are classified into technology schema by intellectual property (IP) offices around the world. Five technology classification schemes are available on the PatentsView platform: the International Patent Classification (IPC), the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) technology fields, U.S. Patent Classification (USPC), and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) technology groupings. The USPC and the NBER technology groupings, which are based on USPC, are no longer used for utility patents. The USPTO stopped updating the USPC scheme for utility patents in 2010 and stopped reporting USPCs on published utility applications and patents in 2015. At this time, the USPTO only uses the CPC classification scheme for utility patents, but still uses USPC for design and plant patents.

International Patent Classification

The IPC was established in 1971 under the Strasbourg Agreement, which became effective in October 1975. It is used in over 100 countries around the world. WIPO performs the administrative management of the Strasbourg Agreement and provides ample resources to learn about IPC such as its IP frequently asked questions page.

Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC)

CPC is the name of the new patent classification system jointly developed by the EPO and USPTO launched in 2010. At the EPO, the CPC replaces the ECLA classification scheme, and at the USPTO it replaces the USPC scheme.

The CPC is IPC-compliant in that most of its subdivisions stem directly from current IPC entries and it follows standard IPC classification principles. The IPC is the only patent classification system used by all patent offices, so the fact that the CPC is compliant with it will ensure that it is understood by a wide international audience. For more information on CPC, visit

World Intellectual Property (WIPO)  

To facilitate comparisons across countries, WIPO commissioned a study to update a simplified version of the IPC scheme. Specifically, the study updated an existing technology classification scheme developed by the Fraunhofer ISI and the Observatoire des Sciences et des Technologies, in cooperation with the French patent office (INPI), referred to as the ISI-OST-INTA classification scheme. PatentsView includes the ISI-OST-INTA codes as variables in the bulk download files. Overall, there are 5 major groups and 35 subgroups composed of IPC codes. One example of a major group is chemistry, with subset fields such as food chemistry, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology among others. More detail is available in the commissioned WIPO article.

U.S. Patent Classification (USPC) and National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) 

The USPC system and the NBER technology area categories are discontinued for utility patents, but are still used for design and plant patents. For more information, click this overview document link.

PatentsView Data Availability Table 

IPC 1976–Present In 2006 there was a change to the system and classification_level
symbol_positionclassification_valueclassification_statusclassification_data_sourceaction_date, and ipc_version_indicator are only available for patents granted in 2006 or later.
CPC 1976–Present  
USPC 1976–2013 In 2013, USPTO moved away from USPC to the CPC system
NBER 1976–2014  
WIPO 1976–2020 Limited to the top three WIPO categories