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Xu, H. SPIF (Patent Identification Format). Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 11 December 2023).
Xu H. SPIF (Patent Identification Format). Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed December 11, 2023.
Xu, Handwiki. "SPIF (Patent Identification Format)" Encyclopedia, (accessed December 11, 2023).
Xu, H.(2022, October 30). SPIF (Patent Identification Format). In Encyclopedia.
Xu, Handwiki. "SPIF (Patent Identification Format)." Encyclopedia. Web. 30 October, 2022.
SPIF (Patent Identification Format)

SPIF is a standard format for representing patent identification information. SPIF stands for (Simple/Standard/Specific/Special) Patent Identification Format. SPIF restricts the use of non-standard characters in listing patent publication and patent application. At its core, SPIF is a simple asset identification and disambiguation solution. SPIF does not seek to guarantee the existence of an asset, rather, SPIF seeks to uniquely identify assets. SPIF was created with the following principles in mind: The first version of SPIF was released January 29, 2021. SPIF was launched publicly on March 22, 2021. SPIF is managed by the Linux Foundation's Joint Development Foundation Projects, LLC, SPIF Series, Project Name: SPIF Patent Identification Format.

asset identification spif simple/standard/specific/special

1. Problems of Non-Standard Patent Identification Formats

Lists of patent numbers are important to facility a variety of patent management and monetization activities. For example

  • corporate mergers and acquisitions
  • patent licensing
  • patent sales
  • standards setting declarations of essential patents
  • academic research
  • transfer of patent prosecution responsibility from one law firm to another

These lists can be difficult to work with because the tool or system used to generate the list may not be the same tool used to ingest the list, and inconsistencies between tools causes mismatches of patent assets. This causes in-house teams, outside counsel, and more to spend significant work multiple times over cleaning a list and making it suitable for use across tools (e.g., Cipher, Derwent, Questel, Innography, Unified Portal, etc.).

Some samples of problematic entries:

Sample Input Likely Meaning Type (app or pub) Comments
CNZL201480022610.X CN201480022610 app Extra check digit and prefix
ZL03827150.8 CN03827150 app Missing country code
GB3123328 EP3123328A1 pub Wrong country code (there's no UK patent with that number)
CH,2420637 EP2420637A2 pub Wrong country code (there's no Swiss patent with that number)
ZA 2015/000715 ZA201500715 app Extra zero
WO002/001258 WO02002/001258 app Missing year digits
GB2405228,319405.7 GB2405228B8 pub Extra stuff, app number?
US2014214418 US20140214418A1 pub Missing zero
US7123456BB US7123456B2 pub Made up kind code “BB”
KR1341015B1 KR101341015B1 pub Missing 10 prefix
20067013095,Korea KR20067013095 app Country name spelled out as suffix
US2017163019A1 WO02017163019A1 app There is a US app with that number, but they meant WIPO
GB2568035 GB2568035B pub Ambiguous
GB2568035 EP2568035B1 pub
US10229419 US10/229,419 app Ambiguous
US10229419 US10229419B2 pub

Importantly, SPIF is not a solution for patent characteristic identification, priority dates, live dead status. SPIF is a simple asset identification and disambiguation solution.

2. Format Details

The following defines the format of the required and optional columns in a SPIF compatible list of patent assets.[1] The required columns must be named exactly as shown. The formats of the numbers for the supported patent offices and the PCT are shown in the Country Specific Guidance Section. These formats have been selected for broad compatibility with existing tools.

Column Name Description Examples Priority
Application Number - SPIF The patent-office assigned application/serial # including the country code and omitting spaces and check digits. There should be nothing else in the field (e.g., no leading/trailing whitespace)

Reasons to include country code: Need it to look up regardless.  Eliminates confusion between the actual serial number and designated country for EP. It eliminates the need to merge columns for matching and also solves issues with Excel reformatting the fields into numbers.

Check digits should be eliminated







Required where there is no Publication Number

Recommended otherwise but can be blank

Publication Number - SPIF The patent office assigned patent number (when available), or publication number (when available). including the country code and the kind code. There should be no spaces, punctuation, or other characters. There should be nothing else in the field (e.g. no leading/trailing whitespace)

Check digits should be eliminated.












(Blank is ok if no publication number is available)

Required when issued or published, otherwise blank

2.1. Additional Fields

Additional fields may be provided and parsers supporting SPIF are not required to evaluate these columns when performing matching. However, if these column names are present the data in the columns must conform to the provided descriptions.

Column Name Description Examples Priority
Title - SPIF The title of the patent. This makes human verification of a file easier High frequency cable, high frequency coil, and method for manufacturing high frequency cable Recommended
Filing Date - SPIF The filing date of the patent. This makes human verification and some machine verification simpler.

Excel date (not text), set Excel Date format to: "yyyy-mm-dd" (ISO-8601)

2012-09-21 Recommended
Country - SPIF Two-digit country code. This should be present in the numbers already but may be provided as a separate column. This is not the validation country for EP assets. EP





Family identifiers - Multiple potential column names are permitted as shown at right. It is often helpful to be able to realize that multiple assets are all in the same family. Family identifiers are not mandatory; however, if they are provided the columns must be named according to the following pattern:

“Family - <Type>” where <Type> is replaced with: INPADOC,

DocDB, Internal, or a product-defined string, e.g. “Family - XYZTool”.

This can be used to improve matching and/or spot common problems with the data.

Family - Internal


Family - INPADOC 20110929WO2011118054A1

Family - DocDB 44672642

Recommend that at least one family column be provided; multiple columns are permitted if properly named

2.2. File Format Requirements and Formatting

  1. Microsoft Excel 2007+/OOXML (e.g. “.xlsx” file format)
    1. Not CSV, not anything else
    2. Not “classic” Excel, e.g. “.xls”
    3. Note, a goal is to have the format be human-readable and machine-readable. This will help build trust in the results.
      1. We recognize the problem of doing this (people will screw it up). The alternative is people can’t check and correct their files so they will end up with a CSV version and an Excel version and ...
  2. The sheet containing the data is called “Master Data - SPIF”
  3. The first row has the names of the columns only (Row 1 in Excel) and starts in Column A
  4. One row per asset only (Rows 2 and up)
    1. To the extent practical, each asset should only appear once, e.g. do not list both the publication and the patent as two rows.
  5. No merged cells anywhere in the Master Data Sheet
  6. Column order recommendation, any order is allowed provided the mandatory columns are named exactly:
    1. Application Number - SPIF
    2. Publication Number - SPIF

3. Adoption and Industry Acceptance

SPIF launched with support from Cipher, IAM Marketplace, Richardson Oliver Insights, RPX, and Unified Patents, who have all announced support of the SPIF format in 2021. Additionally, notable members of the SPIF project include

  • AON
  • Dropbox
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Open Invention Network
  • Shopify

The first commercial trial of SPIF occurred between RPX and Google in March of 2021 (announced during the keynote speech at IPBC Connect, March 22, 2021).[2]


  1. "FAQ" (in en-US). 
  2. "AGENDA - IPBC Connect 2021". 
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