International Patent Classification

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Strasbourg Agreement on International Patent Classification
Short Title: Strasbourg Agreement
Title (English): Strasbourg Agreement Concerning the
International Patent Classification
Date: 24. March 1971
Reference: Federal Law Gazette 1975 II p. 283, 284
Contract Type: Multinational
Legal Matter: Industrial Property / Classification Agreement
Signature: 62[1]
Ratification: 62 states (15 January 2013)[2]
Please note the reference to the current version of the contract.

The International Patent Class ification (IPC) is a tool for patent searches. It has been used since 1975 to classify the technical content of patents uniformly worldwide.
The IPC is used by the patent offices of more than 100 countries, as well as by the European Patent Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which administers the Strasbourg Agreement on the International Patent Classification (Federal Law Gazette 1975 II p. 283, 284) by which the classification was created is also administered.
The IPC is continually updated to reflect developments in technology and was updated every five years until the 8th edition (2006). With the beginning of the 8th edition, the system was reformed and the classification was split into “Core” and “Advanced”; the latter was revised more frequently than the former. Since 1 January 2011, this division has been removed with the IPC-2011.01 edition. The classification is updated annually on 1 January and can be viewed on the World Intellectual Property Organization website[3].

The full IPC symbol, a code of letters and numbers, is also known as the IPC notation. The IPC notation is indicated on published patent applications and granted patents and is identified by INID code 51.


The classification is hierarchically divided into sections (letter), these into classes (digits) and subclasses (letter) and these in turn into about 70,000 main groups and subgroups (digits). The top hierarchy is formed by 8 sections, which divide the technology into areas.

IPC Section Technical area
A Daily necessities
B Working methods, transport
C Chemistry, metallurgy
D Textiles, paper
E Construction, Earth Drilling, Mining
F Mechanical engineering, lighting, heating, weapons, blasting
G Physics
H Electrical engineering


for complete IPC symbols:

  • Stabilisation surfaces B64C5/00
  • Bicycle frame, tubular B62K19/06

Further property right classifications

In order to be able to classify the classes even more precisely and thus to facilitate the search, many patent and trade mark offices have a further fine classification below the IPC. The internal fine classification of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office is called DEKLA. The European Patent Organisation has created the European Patent Classification(ECLA) as a fine classification. In order to harmonise the various fine classifications, an association called Trilateral was founded, to which the three largest intellectual property organisations in the world, the European Patent Office, the US Patent and Trademark Office and the Japan Patent Office, belong.[4]

Some states primarily use their own patent classification, for example the USA uses the USPC. For other areas of protection of intellectual property there are other classifications: the International Classification of Goods and Services (Nice Classification, see also Trade Mark Classification), the International Classification of the Figurative Elements of Trade Marks (Vienna Classification) and the International Classification for Industrial Designs Locarno Classification.


See also

  • Information function of patents

Individual references

  3. Official WIPO website on the International Patent Classification (IPC)

Web links