Are you looking to protect your inventions, products or ideas overseas?
Patents hold immense power — they are absolutely fundamental to the international success of many businesses and organisations.
Most countries have their own unique patent systems that require relevant documentation to be submitted in an official language, conforming to certain styles of writing. Ensuring your translated patent texts perform overseas requires a specialist linguistic and technical touch.
In this blog, let’s dig a little deeper on patent translation. Why might I need it, what types are there, what makes it so challenging and why do you need the experts on your side?
Firstly, why do I need patent translation services?
Perhaps most importantly, patent translation services can help you to successfully file overseas, preventing the theft of inventions.
A patent represents protection for your invention, allowing you to take legal action against anyone who makes, sells or imports it without your permission.
Usually, patent rights only apply in the country in which they are granted. This means, to acquire this overseas legal protection, you need to file a specification at the relevant office for that country or region. This naturally entails the translation of your patent documentation into the official language of that country and/or as stipulated by the regional patent office (such as the European Patent Office).
Patent translation services are also essential if you’re looking to defend or attack a patent — for litigation. If you’re involved with court proceedings, you’ll need the appropriate literature and documentation to be translated into the relevant language(s), too.
In a nutshell, patent translation services, by helping you to file overseas, give your organisation a competitive advantage in an increasingly globalised business world. People who need patent translation services include patent attorneys and in-house intellectual property teams.
The two types of patent translation
Patent translation covers the process of converting documents, literature and texts relating to patents from one language into another.
Whether it’s the translation of an existing patent specification, application texts for new patents, prior art, an opposition brief, examination reports or some other related documentation, patent literature is naturally relevant to many industries and technologies.
These types of documentation can usually be categorised as follows:
- Filing: This involves the translation of a patent specification (whether the full specification, or just the Claims) for filing at a foreign patent office. Any invention and its uses need to be accurately communicated in the appropriate way to fulfil the obligations set out in a jurisdiction. To ensure all Claims of your invention are covered, pinpoint precision is key. The target audience for these translations are patent licensees, officials and legal professionals.
- Litigation: Translation services are usually needed in order to defend or attack a patent overseas. Such documents are often used for legal evidence in court litigation proceedings to argue whether something does or does not constitute a patent. This can include the translation of documentation arguing the novelty and inventiveness of a patent, or to learn about the contents of a patent that has already been filed.
We work with many clients to help them file successfully around the globe in many languages. A typical assignment can include the translation of the Claims of a patent application into French or German for filing at the European Patent Office, based in Munich.
Some of the technical domains we commonly translate patent documentation for include electronics, biochemistry, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and telecoms.
‘Patentese’: a language in itself
To have an invention patented, you need to prove its uniqueness and applicability. In the UK, for example, a patent can be granted only when something is ‘inventive’, ‘new’ and ‘something that can be made or used’.
Communicating and proving this can be tricky enough in your own country and language, let alone for a foreign patent office. Each jurisdiction has its own legal procedure for patent specifications; translators localise your documentation to the specific patent norms and requirements of the target country.
Working with patents is one of the most demanding, specialised fields of translation. In fact, such is the arcane, complex nature of texts and styles of writing, the patent industry has been said to have its own language — Patentese!
Patent documentation often has a very particular style, especially relating to sentence structure. Conveying the appropriate, clinical meaning is a very challenging endeavour that varies depending on the industry and technology in question.
Patent translation is an esoteric art where success demands an intricate understanding of the patent process in a particular country and also the technology involved. As you can probably appreciate, not everyone has the knowledge to seamlessly jump through the hoops of the Korean Intellectual Property Office, for example!
A linguistic, professional challenge
You want exclusive rights for your invention overseas, right?
To ensure your patent documentation succeeds, your translator also needs to be a highly-experienced linguist, possessing the skill to translate and communicate meaning in a clinical, concise, appropriate way.
As well as speaking Patentese and understanding a country’s specific legal patent process, a patent translator needs the confidence, knowledge and grasp of nuance and specialist terminology.
Take the chemical industry, for example. In English, many chemical names only differ by a single letter — such as ethyl and methyl — but also have their own Chinese equivalents. When used in a longer, composite chemical name, misinterpretation and miscommunication can easily creep in, for example with an English-to-Chinese or Chinese-to-English patent translation.
This can drastically change the scope of your patent claim. You need a skilled, experienced chemist who’s also an experienced, highly-competent translator!
The mother tongue's importance
The golden rule for all translated patent texts? They must read as if originally written in the target language. A document localised by a native speaker of the target language will have this necessary level of authenticity, which is why we insist on the use of mother tongue translators for all projects.
Then there’s the vocational element; to perform these translations to the required level, you need experience as a professional translator. This means an acquaintance with the translation process itself, glossaries, project management software, file types, CAT tools and more. Crucially, it also means the ability to work efficiently to meet important deadlines.
So, patent translators need the technical, linguistic and subject matter expertise, but also the professional skill to seamlessly convert meaning from the source language to the target language.
No mean feat, let us assure you.
The pitfalls of poor patent translation
Time, money and sanity. All things you potentially stand to lose with poorly-translated patent documentation.
Businesses or organisations occasionally choose to have their patent documentation translated by an insufficiently-skilled linguist or translation company. Errors can significantly slow down the patent filing process, causing all sorts of stalling and problems further down the line.
Expect project delays, financial loss, idea theft, incorrect patent information and even legal consequences. The incorrect filing of patents in one country can impact a patent in another country, potentially rendering it invalid.
It’s not just about getting your idea patented, either
It’s about future-proofing your inventions. A good patent translation will give you the assurance of being able to withstand litigation in a foreign jurisdiction, saving time and money in the long-term.
A mistake in the translation of the Claims can make the scope of your patent’s protection unclear or different from what was intended, leaving your business exposed. Your translators need first-hand, direct experience with the terminology and nuances relating to your industry.
Getting your poorly-translated patent documents amended can easily double your costs — so getting it right the first time is essential.
The value of an LSP when it comes to patent translation
Considering the drawbacks to patent translation failure, an experienced, trusted and proven language service provider (LSP) can add real value, making your overseas filing strategy seamless and stress-free.
A professional patent translation company will be experienced in overcoming any obstacles, ensuring your documentation is completely error-free, delivered on time and has the maximum chance of succeeding.
If you’re translating patents for multiple overseas markets, keeping things with one translation company is also a great, money-saving move. At Alexika, we work with a huge range of language combinations, between all of the world’s business tongues.
By having the best networks of native expert translators and by investing in leading project management technology, we offer a cost-effective, world-class standard of patent translation.
Alexika: for world-class patent translation services
Since 1998, we have been providing specialist patent translations between all of the business languages of the world.
We’re an experienced, fully-certified patent translation agency that’s proud to offer clients a leading service — guaranteeing prompt, quality, to-deadline professional patent translations.
Our native, expert patent linguists are ready to get to work on your project. Request a quick quote today through our website, or phone our friendly team on +44 1943 839 227 outside of the UK) to discuss your project.