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Glossary:International patent classification (IPC)

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The International patent classification, abbreviated as IPC, was established by the Strasbourg Agreement of 1971. It creates a hierarchical system of language-independent symbols for the classification of patents and utility models according to the different technical fields to which they belong.

The classifiation system containts about 70 000 entries, i.e. classification symbols or codes that can be allotted to patent documents.

Symbols are arranged in a hierarchical, tree-like structure:

  • at the highest level are the eight sections corresponding to very broad technical fields (e.g., Section C deals with chemistry and metallurgy);
  • sections are further subdivided into classes (e.g., Class C21 deals with the metallurgy of iron);
  • classes are divided into more than 600 subclasses (e.g., Subclass A21B contains bakers' ovens and machines or equipment for baking).

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