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22nd December 2021

Introducing the world’s first Universal Technology Taxonomy

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Why create a Universal Technology Taxonomy?

Being able to classify every patent in the world into manageable, sensible groupings would be so helpful.

Only by having that level of access and transparency can you compare companies and technologies objectively and consistently and provide answers to many strategic questions.  

Growth in today’s economy is driven by investment in innovation and disruptive technologies.

Patents are a great way to understand the technologies that are being developed. Viewing the world through a technology lens provides a powerful and insightful way to look at both organisations as well as the underlying technology.

Is there anything that could deliver that insight into all the world’s patents at a technology level?

Don’t get fooled that CPC codes could give you this answer, there are over 300,000 of these – too many to get your head around or to provide any form of meaningful comparison.

Understand the external environment

As a leader in the field of strategic patent intelligence, Cipher was asked to come up with a universal solution to this problem. The challenge was set in the following terms:

  • How best to understand global technology trends, key to a broad range of R&D investment decisions and identification of new entrants
  • Fast and efficient access to benchmarking data and competitive intelligence to inform patenting strategy
  • Communication and mitigation of patent risk, through rapid assessment of portfolios owned by both operating companies and non-practising entities (NPEs)

The Universal Technology Taxonomy

So we came up with a unique solution – the first Universal Technology Taxonomy (UTT) to map global patent data to a defined set of technology areas. The design was driven by the guiding principles of accessibility, relevance and speed:

  • Accessibility, achieved by having a manageable number of classes 
  • Relevance, as the classes are constructed from active patents, with broadly similar coverage for all technologies
  • Speed, responding to the issue that patent intelligence is frequently too slow and expensive to create. UTT results are instant.

March 2023: The UTT has 122 technology classes, organised by reference to 10 high-level groupings (Superclasses).


The Universal Technology Taxonomy delivers against the need to know what’s going on from two fundamental perspectives. First, what technologies a company owns and how companies compare. Secondly, the global and regional trends relating to one or more technology areas.

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Corporate Analysis: Using IBM as an example, Fig 2 is the UTT view of the technologies currently owned by the group. With that a starting point, you can take the analyses in any direction e.g. which areas are growing or shrinking?

Figure 2: Corporate analysis – IBM

  • Cohort analysis: often the question is how do companies compare? Fig 3 is the FAMGA (or should it now be MAMGA?) companies compared applying the UTT. While often treated as a benchmark group, their investment in technologies is very different attributable to their current and future strategies.


Figure 3: Cohort Analysis – FAMGA

  • Technology trends: The ability to focus on one or more of the technology areas is essential. Fig 4 is an analysis of the top owners in Surgical Robotics, one of the UTT Superclasses.


Figure 4: Technology analysis – Surgical Robotics

Classification is key to understanding, which is why taxonomies are universally adopted in all fields of science, economics and finance. The adoption of corporate classifications such as SIC codes and NAICS codes are just one example of this.

The Universal Technology Taxonomy has significant potential to change the way companies are analysed and understood. Our hope is that the UTT is widely adopted not only by patent owners, but those focussed on increasing transparency around intangible assets. 

Read more about the Universal Technology Taxonomy

Download the Universal Technology Taxonomy


Full UTT layout

The UTT can give you an objective view of patented technologies globally and also provide details of:

  • 10 technology Superclasses
  • 122 technology Sub-classes and their scope definitions

Cipher Vision Podcast

Cipher’s monthly podcast, Cipher Vision is now into its third season.  Each episode has co-hosts Nigel Swycher (CEO) and Francesca Levoir (Head of Marketing) and a notable guest discuss an IP or patents-related topic.

Guests have covered a range of subjects, from valuation and sustainability through to diversity and machine learning.

Cipher Vision episodes are under 25 minutes and are ideal to listen to during a short break or journey.

Cipher Vision podcast index

Putting Passion in IP

Episode 8 in Season 3 features Anjanette Lecher, Director, Intellectual Asset Management at Corning Incorporated. She shared with us her love of intellectual property, discussing how to take a customer centric approach when analysing and presenting data, adopting the correct tools to support efficiency and visualisations. She also highlighted the importance of a diverse team and the need to make IP accessible.
Read more

SDGs through a patent lens

Episode 7 in Season 3 features Marco Richter, Global Head of Customer Success at LexisNexis Intellectual Property. He highlights the important role that patents play in helping us to become more sustainable, discussing the benefit of measuring innovation in relation to the UN Sustainable development Goals (SDGs).
Read more

Flat, Fast and Focused

Episode 6 in Season 3 features Lorie Goins who shares with us how to approach innovation, by adopting a questioning, inclusive and analytical mindset, drawing on tools to form evidence-based decisions that enhance your business and IP strategy.
Read more

Promoting SEPs Transparency

Episode 5 in the Cipher Vision Podcast series features Tim Pohlmann, CEO, LexisNexis IPlytics. He joins us to discuss the world of SEPs, from areas of conflict to new opportunities.
Read more

Protecting Innovation with Director Vidal

Episode 4 in Season 3 features Director Kathi Vidal of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, who shares her thoughts on how we can improve the innovation ecosystem.
Read more

The Patent Market

Episode 3 in Season 3 features Kent Richardson, CEO, Richardson Oliver insights joined us to share the inside scoop on the patent market, from who is buying and selling and the price, to what the future holds.
Read more

Improve your patent strategy now

Speak to the Cipher team today.

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