Improving Intellectual Access to the U.S. Patent Classification

Bruce B. Cox


Understanding the U.S. Patent Oassification (USPC) scheme is a significant challenge to the general public and the inventor. This is due in pan to the highly discriminative and technical terminology used in the Manual ofClassification which has developed in response to the needs of patent examiners. It is also due to the structure of the Manual, a complex hierarchical tree of 125,000 classifications1 with as many as 15 levels from root to leaf. Each classification has associated with it a paragraph or more of text defining it and often providing references to other classifications. A prototype hypertext Manual of Classification incorporates a few small classes of this highly structured body of text with many non-intuitive cross-links. This prototype also includes a method for using terminology from various subject-specific controlled vocabularies (presumably more familiar to the general public).

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