More comprehensive records will be available to international patent searchers with the unveiling this year of a major overhaul to the International Patent Classification (IPC) system, which more than 100 countries use as their major or sole method in organizing patent information. The new classification features two mutually compatible levels, core and advanced, meant to cater to the diverse needs of global intellectual property offices with varying sizes and resources.

The core level will stay relatively stable, with 18,000 entries to be revised every three years. The advanced "electronic layer," definitions for which are still being developed, has IPC symbols that will be revised every three months. This layer will include chemical formulae, illustrations, and examples to help visualize chemical and drug entities, as well as greater details to allow more precise searches. Also, for the first time, people will be able to search comprehensively through all previous classifications using...

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