DEKLA Classification System

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The DEKLA classification system is an internal classification system applied to German applications, patents, and utility models by German patent examiners. Like the European Patent Offices’ in-house ECLA classification system, DEKLA is based on the structure of the IPC (International Patent Classification) and represents further sub-divisions of IPC classes rather than a unique classification system of its own. There are 110,000 individual partitions in the DEKLA system, and about 70,000 come from the IPC. For comparison, ECLA has 130,000 divisions, while Japanese File Index terms have over 190,000 partitions.[1]

DEKLA classes are not added only to German patent documents: the marks are allocated to a document when it is entered into the German examiner’s database DEPATISnet, which hosts a multi-country collection covering documents from Austria, Switzerland, Germany, East Germany, the EPO, France, Great Britain, Japan, the United States, and WIPO (PCT international published applications).[2] Therefore, documents from any of these countries can bear a German classification in their electronic incarnation within DEPATISnet. In addition, commercial search databases such as PatBase have begun to license this data and make it available for searching. Curiously, when using the DEPATISnet search engine, DEKLA classifications may be searched by choosing "search file IPC" from the classification selection menu. It is not referred to as DEKLA in the search interface.[2]

However, DEKLA is unique because it is not systematically applied to new patent documents. Not all incoming patent publications that are placed into the German patent database (DEPATISnet) are given a DEKLA mark: German examiners have the discretion to add DEKLA records to patent publications if they feel the IPC mark on that document needs to be corrected or expanded upon. Therefore, DEKLA is only applied to a small portion of records, and only when the German examiner in question feels that it is necessary. This means that the classification cannot be used to conduct comprehensive searches over the entire collection; rather, the classification system is mostly useful as an extra avenue to be explored when a narrower search is needed than the IPC can support. Because DEKLA groups are extensions of IPC groups the DEKLA classes are formed by adding letters and numbers to the end of an IPC classification symbol. For example:











Main Group



DEKLA section

This particular classification relates to furniture, particularly details of tables or desks. The IPC sub-group takes the searcher to "table tops; rims therefore," while the DEKLA classes E1 and E2 divide the technology into "desktop verges" and "cross girders for plates," respectively. (Note: The classification above shows a letter and number following the IPC mark, but it is also common to see a DEKLA mark which only has one letter following the IPC code, as seen in the figure below. The mark above is divided into E1 and E2, but there is no "13/08 E" division.)

The only way to explore the DEKLA classifications is to access the searchable class schedule available on the German Patent Office website. This is available at and the classification data is available in English, French and German for the IPC-classification levels, but only in German for the DEKLA levels. To discern the definitions of these classes, it may be helpful to use an online translation service, such as Yahoo! Babelfish.


Some information about German patent classification systems that do not refer to the DEKLA system may appear in the patent information literature. First, the DEKLA classification system is not to be confused with an earlier German patent classification system that was in use from the late 1800s until the IPC system replaced it in 1975. This earlier system was also adopted by a number of other countries before the introduction of the IPC.[2] According to leading patent information expert Stephen Adams, this system (along with the British domestic patent classification system) likely influenced the development and organization of the early IPC system.[3]


  1. Information on the DEKLA classification system supplied by the German Patent Office website. Accessed March 14, 2008,
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Adams, Stephen R. Information Sources in Patents, 2nd Edition. Munich: K.G. Saur. 2006. Pages 78-83.
  3. Adams, Stephen. "Comparing the IPC and US Classification Systems for the Patent Searcher." World Patent Information. Vol 23. 2001. Pages 15-23.

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