Japanese F-Index and F-Terms

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Introduction

Japanese F-Terms, the Japanese File Index (FI), and F-I Facets are all specific classifications devised by the Japanese Patent Office for their in-house use, to make searching quicker by sub-dividing and indexing technological subject matter. While File Index (FI) codes were created to further subdivide classes from the slow-moving pre-reform IPC system, the F-Term system was designed to be an independent Japanese classification mechanism. More resources about these classification systems can be found through the Industrial Property Digital Library (IPDL) website at http://www.ipdl.inpit.go.jp/homepg_e.ipdl.

Contents


File Index

The limitations of the roughly 70,000 divisions of the IPC classification prompted European patent examiners to create the ECLA system as an in-house extension to the IPC, increasing the number of sub-divisions to around 130,000. These same limitations in turn prompted the Japanese patent office to create their own in-house extension to the IPC, called the File Index system, which extended the system to over 170,000 unique sub-groups.[1] According to information provided by a JPO employee, the File Index classifications are assigned to patent documents based on the document's claims.[2]

File Index subgroups are added on to the original IPC classification to create further sub-divisions within these existing categories. File Index terms make use of “subdivision symbols," which are 3-digit numbers, and then are further divided using “discrimination symbols,” which consist of a single letter. An example is presented below:

C02F9/00

501

A

IPC

File Index subdivision symbol

File Index discrimination symbol

A concordance between FI and IPC codes can be found on the IPDL website (in Japanese) at the following URL: http://www5.ipdl.inpit.go.jp/pmgs1/pmgs1/pmgs

File Index terms are similar in theory to ECLA, but are created from a different technological perspective than ECLA. As an example, compare IPC and ECLA terms from C02F9/00 to their F-I terms from the same class.

IPC: C02F 9/00 and sub-groups:
9/00 Multistep treatment of water, waste water or sewage
9/02 Involving a separation step

9/04 At least one step being a chemical treatment
. 9/06 Electrochemical treatment

9/08 At least one step being a physical treatment
. 9/10 Thermal treatment
. 9/12 Irradiation or treatment with electric or magnetic fields

9/14 At least one step being a biological treatment


ECLA: C02F 9/00 and sub groups:
9/00 Multistep treatment of water, waste water or sewage
C02F9/00C Applied to waste water from the paper and cellulose industries
C02F9/00D Applied to waste water containing cyanides and chromates
C02F9/00E Applied to waste water from the manufacture of polymers and organic compounds
C02F9/00F Applied to waste water containing metals and metallic compounds
C02F9/00G Applied to waste water originating from the wet purification of gaseous effluents
C02F9/00H Applied to water conditioning, e.g. for industrial water supply, production of potable water, surface water treatment
. C02F9/00H2 Mobile treatment plants, e.g. mounted on a vehicle
. C02F9/00H4 Portable or detachable small-scale treatment devices (single-stage processes, optionally in combination with filtration techniques C02F1/00D or C02F1/00E4)]
C02F9/00K Applied to waste water from vehicle-washing installations
C02F9/00L Applied to waste water from tanneries
C02F9/00M Applied to ground water or leachate
C02F9/00V Mobile plants for treatment of waste water, sewage or sludge (water re-use C02F9/00H2)
C02F9/00Z Applied to chemical or physical treatment of sewage and toilet wastes in small compact devices (biological treatment C02F3/12C)


File Index: C02F 9/00 and sub groups:
9/00 Multistep treatment of water, waste water or sewage

501 . Biological processes

A Aerobic
B . Biological films
C . Activated sludge
D Anaerobic
E . Biological films
F Combination of aerobic and anaerobic
G . Biological films
H . Denitrification
J . Dephosphorization
Z Others

502 . Non-biological processes

A Heating
B . Evaporation or condensation
C . Incineration
D Filtration
E . Film separation
F . . Reverse osmosis
G . . Ultrafiltration
H Sorption
J Ion exchange
K . Ion exchange film
L Utilizing light, electrical or magnetic forces
M . Electrolysis
N . Ultraviolet rays or electron beams
P Coagulation, deposition
Q Ultrasonic waves
R Oxidation (including ozone processes)
Z Others  

503 . Process objects

A Water
B . Pure water, ultra pure water
C Organic waste water
D . Non-diluted (low diluted) feces and urine
E . Diluted feces and urine
F . household waste water
G Inorganic waste water
Z Others

504 . Methods A Methods including biological processes
B Methods excluding biological processes
C Control
D Limiting numerical values for processing conditions
E Combinations of plurality of means, methods including process stages
Z Others


As can be seen from the above example, File Index terms are very precise, and very numerous. Because they were created from a different technological angle than the ECLA subclasses, they qualify as another useful tool for capturing documents of interest.

Unfortunately, because they were developed as an in-house system by the JPO, the use of File Index terms in patent searching is usually limited to investigations of Japanese national patents and their families. However, that doesn’t mean that the File Index terms are completely useless for identifying non-JP art: Japanese documents are likely to have US, EP or WO family members which may be discovered indirectly by searching Japanese documents and then performing investigations into their family members. If an File Index class code is really on target to particular subject matter of interest, it may still be worth searching this way despite the extra time needed for non-Japanese speakers.

This attitude is shared by the providers of PatBase, QPAT and Thomson Innovation, some of the major search systems to offer Japanese File Index searching: these systems both aggregate classifications into larger family records, so that users can search using Japanese terms, and then analyze family members of these documents in the results set. QPAT offers smaller, more exclusive FamPat families as search results, and both systems offer extended INPADOC patent families.


Facets

Facets are 3-digit alphabetic codes that are typically used to complement File Index classifications, although there are some facet codes that are applicable generally. Facets are useful in combination with F-I class searching because they index subject matter from a different perspective; in other words, certain facets may index a set publications “laterally” across multiple FI codes.

A facet code normally begins with the first letter of the IPC/FI class that it is related to. General facets that are not associated with a specific IPC begin with the letter “Z.” The Z codes are those that index patents across multiple IPC classes, and these are also known as “Broad List Facets.”[3]

An example of a general facet is:

ZAB

Definition: Environmental protection technology

Because it is a “Z” facet, this categorization is applicable to any IPC class.


F-Terms

In contrast to File Index classifications, Japanese F-terms are more independent of the IPC system. F-terms are created by combining multiple File Index subdivisions into broader “themes” (discussed further below). These themes can be created by grouping numerically closely related File Index terms, or sometimes by grouping a wider range of File Index codes which are classified in different parts of the File Index system.[4] According to a JPO employee, the F-term codes are assigned to patent documents based on all sections of the patent document except the abstract, since the abstract is never used for indexing by the JPO.[2]

The JPO developed F-terms to design a system more rich in the level of technical detail than other available classification schemes. An excerpt from the JPO website states:

The current international patent classification (IPC) is mainly expanded from the viewpoint of discrete technology, and its technical segmentation is not very detailed. For this reason, search based only on IPC usually brings about hundreds and thousands of prior art documents. F-terms re-classify or further segment each specific technical field of IPC from a variety of viewpoints (i.e., objective, application, structure, material, manufacturing process, processing and operation method, control method, etc.). Combining F-terms with IPC effectively narrows down relevant documents in prior art search.


The three components of an F-term are the 5-character alphanumeric “theme code,” the 4-character “term code” (of which the first two characters are called the “viewpoint”), and optionally, a one-letter extension code. For example:

4D006

GA01

A

Theme Code

Full Term Code

Extension Code


F terms theme codes are so highly subdivided by term codes (or viewpoints) that the hierarchy information is presented by the JPO website in table format, rather than list format. Below is a truncated sample taken from the JPO lookup function hosted by the website.

4D006

 

 

GA

GA00

GA01

GA02

GA03

GA04

GA05

GA06

GA07

 

SEPARATION PROCESSES THAT USE MEMBRANES

. Treatment of liquids

. . Separation by differences in pressure (i.e., hydraulics)

. . . Reverse osmosis

. . . . Loose reverse osmosis (R/O)

. . . . Low-pressure reverse osmosis (R/O)

. . . Ultrafiltration

. . . Micro-filtration

 

 

 

 

GA12

GA13

GA14

GA15

GA16

GA17

GA18

 

 

. . Separation being driven by difference in concentration

. . . Dialysis (diffusion dialysis)

. . . Osmosis (direct osmosis)

. . . . Dehydration by contact with a semi-permeable membrane

. . Separation by using differences in electrical potential

. . . Electric dialysis

. . . Electric osmosis

 

 

 

GA22

GA23

 

GA25

GA26

GA27

GA28

 

 

. . Donnan dialysis

. . Membrane extraction

 

. . Pervaporation

. . . Thermo-pervaporation

. . Membrane distillation

. . Vapor osmosis

Table truncated for brevity


Additionally, the final, single-letter extension codes apply broadly to theme codes, which means they also apply to each and every viewpoint under that theme code.

Altogether, there are around 1,800 theme codes, and 350,000 terms codes contained within the F-term classification system.[1] The code definitions are constructed from a different subject-matter angle than File Index classes; however, every theme code has corresponding FI coverage.[1] In fact, the two codes can be used to complement one another: when used together, File Index (or IPC codes) and F-terms form the basis of a very focused search strategy. Using them together can help the searcher quickly bisect the Japanese patent collection and converge on a small subset of the most relevant documents.

To compare F-terms to File Index and to see how they might be used together to bisect a patent collection and target a narrow band of subject matter, compare a selection of F-term theme codes beginning with “4D” (which generally relate to waste treatment) and the related File Index terms.

F-Term

File Index

A selection of F-terms related to waste water treatment:

4D003 Biological treatment of waste water
4D004 Processing of solid wastes
4D005 Coagulation and sedimentation treatment
4D006 Separation using semi-permeable membranes
4D011 Degasification and air bubble elimination
4D012 Separation of gases by adsorption
4D014 Separation of liquids from each other
4D015 Separation of suspended particles by flocculating agents
4D016 Static filter element filters
4D017 Treatment of liquids with adsorbents in general
4D018 Multiple filters and filter presses
4D019 Filter materials
4D020 Gas separation by absorption
4D021 Combined means for separation of solids
4D024 Treatment of water by adsorption
4D025 Treatment of water by ion exchange
4D026 Cartridge filters, filters with movable-type filtering elements
4D027 Treatment of biological wastes in general
4D028 Activated sludge treatment
4D029 Aeration devices for treatment of activated polluted sludge
4D031 Separating particles in gases by inertia, etc.
4D032 Separation of particles using liquids
4D033 Gas particle separation; other treatments
4D034 Heat treatment of water, waste water or sewage
4D036 Isotope separation
4D037 Physical treatment of water
4D038 Removal of specific substances
4D039 Neutralization and property modification
4D040 Purification treatments by anaerobic or anaerobic and aerobic bacteria or animals
4D041 Gravity filters
4D043 Adjustment and processing of grains
4D045 Preventing scale
4D046 Multi-stage treatment of water and waste water

File Index: C02F 9/00 and sub groups:

9/00 Multistep treatment of water, waste water or sewage
501 . Biological processes
A Aerobic
B . Biological films
C . Activated sludge
D Anaerobic
E . Biological films
F Combination of aerobic and anaerobic
G . Biological films
H . Denitrification
J . Dephosphorization
Z Others
502 . Non-biological processes
A Heating
B . Evaporation or condensation
C . Incineration
D Filtration
E . Film separation
F . . Reverse osmosis
G . . Ultrafiltration
H Sorption
J Ion exchange
K . Ion exchange film
L Utilizing light, electrical or magnetic forces
M . Electrolysis
N . Ultraviolet rays or electron beams
P Coagulation, deposition
Q Ultrasonic waves
R Oxidation (including ozone processes)
Z Others
503 . Process objects
A Water
B . Pure water, ultra pure water
C Organic waste water
D . Non-diluted (low diluted) feces and urine
E . Diluted feces and urine
F . household waste water
G Inorganic waste water
Z Others
504 . Methods
A Methods including biological processes
B Methods excluding biological processes
C Control
D Limiting numerical values for processing conditions
E Combinations of plurality of means, methods including process stages
Z Others


User Experience

According to information provided by a former employee at the JPO, the best method for accessing the descriptions and lists of F-terms and the definitions of File Index symbols is to use the Industrial Property Digital Library (IPDL).[5] First, the user should visit the Patent Map Guidance section within the IPDL. In this section, the user can search a specific File Index symbol by entering the symbol within the "FI" field and selecting "Search." The resulting list will display the symbol's location in the classification hierarchy, give the symbol's definition, and provide the corresponding F-term theme code for the FI symbol.


The user can also view F-term lists or descriptions by searching within the "F-term" field in the Patent Map Guidance. In order to access the F-term list for a certain theme code, which is laid out in a table like the example F-term list for 4D006 shown above, the user can:[5]

Option 1:

  • Check “F-term List”
  • Input the F-term theme code in the F-term field (ex. 54D006)
  • Click “Search”

Option 2:

The F-term descriptions can be accessed by:[5]

Option 1:

  • Check “F-term Description”
  • Input the F-term theme code in the F-term field (ex. 54D006)
  • Click “Search”

Option 2:

  • Check “F-term Description”
  • Click the link of “F-term”
  • You can display the list of the F-term theme codes with its title
  • Select the desired F-term theme code link in order to view the F-term description for that theme code.
  • Example: 5J070 (radar systems or details thereof)

The “F-term Description” contains the following sections:[5]

  • Theme code
  • Technical arts (FI coverage, general explanation of this theme, images, etc.)
  • Structure of F-term list
  • Description of F-terms (explanation of each F-terms, including images)
  • References
  • Applications of free word
  • Analyzed sections of document
  • Direction for application of "viewpoint", "F-term" and "Other term"
  • Selection criteria of representative drawings and pages
  • Examples of F-term (real examples)

The JPO provides us with an explanatory booklet about FI and F-term in Japanese through the Internet, and users can access the cover here (PDF) and the body of the text here (PDF). A powerpoint in English by Susumu Iwasaki of the JPO also provides an explanation of the FI and F-terms.


Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Schellner, I. “Japanese File Index Classification and F-terms” World Patent Information. Volume 24 Issue 3. 2002. Pages 197-201.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Tsunoda, Takashi. "How I Wrapped my Mind Around The Japanese F-Term « The Intellogist Blog." LinkedIn discussion on Patent Researchers Group, http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&discussionID=50607742&gid=43605&commentID=38381223&trk=view_disc. Accessed May 24, 2011.
  3. Japanese Patent Office “Outline of Search Terms.” Definitions Page, http://www.ipdl.inpit.go.jp/HELP/pmgs_en/database/format_summary.html#fterm. Accessed on July 17, 2007.
  4. Stephen Adams. “English-language support tools for the use of Japanese F-term patent subject searching online.” World Patent Information. Volume 30. 2008. Page 5-20.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Buffet, Pierre. Patent Landscaping Innovations Group LinkedIn Discussion (Archives only accessible to group members). November 12, 2010. http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&discussionID=34134038&gid=1883637&commentID=26069818&trk=view_disc. Accessed April 14, 2011.

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