Pending No More: Move Ahead with Patent Translation Services

Last Updated May 18, 2023

patent translation

Patent translation services require a balance of language and technical expertise, and a flare for legalese.

A patent is an expensive and complex way to establish ownership of IP (intellectual property).

When you’ve got something new cooking, you must decide whether you protect your IP with a copyright, trademark, or service mark, or by keeping it under wraps as a trade secret before you go through the patent process.

What’s the difference? Patents cover new inventions, processes, or scientific creations. A trademark protects brands, logos, and slogans, while service marks are brand names or logos that identify a service provider. Finally, copyright protects original works of authorship.

Where does translation come in? Let’s say your patent is in English. You can file for protection in countries where English is a filing language like Canada, the United States, Europe, or India. But your invention won’t get protection in China, Russia, or Latin America without patent translation services.

Let’s look at what else you need to know about patents and translation.

The Patent Process

First, make sure the invention is really yours. You must do a patent search to make sure that no one else has already come up with your formula, process, or invention. Otherwise, you might soon be looking for a legal translation service.

Next, verify that your invention passes the three-part test: it’s new, useful, and wouldn’t be obvious to someone knowledgeable in the field.

Then you come to the actual patent application, which includes:

  • A short summary of the invention
  • References to any prior patent applications
  • A brief discussion of the general field, background, and how the invention came about
  • A longer summary of the invention
  • A description of the best implementation of the invention
  • The scope and limitation of the invention

Now you want to file your patent application, paying special attention to filing deadlines. This is where you’ll want to translate the application into any relevant languages.

Why You Need Patent Translation

Patent law is specific to each country. Let’s say, for example, you reside in Canada but want to patent your invention in China.

Patents are administered by the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA). You can either file directly with CNIPA in China, or through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) method.

Under the PCT, you have the option of selecting additional jurisdictions where you would like to seek patent protection as part of your patent application with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

To then file for a Chinese patent through this method, you have 30 months from the date of the Canadian application or the priority date, whichever is earliest, to submit your complete application to CNIPA.

Applications and all necessary documentation submitted to CNIPA must be in Chinese.

Or let’s consider Europe. In Europe, for example, the European Patent Office (EPO) examines European patent applications for 44 countries through a centralized service.

At present, the official languages of the European Patent Office are English, French, and German. Therefore, “a European patent application must be filed in one of the official languages or, if filed in any other language, translated into one of the official languages.”

Reminder: The EU has 24 official languages (Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish) so that leaves 21 needing patent translation before filing.

3 Features of Effective Patent Translation Services

Due to the nature of patents and the language therein, not just anyone can do the translation work.

Language expertise

Patents require interdisciplinary translations by expert linguists.

The best patent translation services will know how to get the job done right and effectively and use the right linguists for translation verification.

We’ll discuss this more below.

Technical ease

A patent is a complex technical document, often involving highly specialized descriptions, exhaustively annotated drawings, and several supporting documents.

It’s all too common for an international patent to be unsuccessful. And that’s not because of a technical failure of the invention itself, but because of a shortcoming in the translation.

Without accurate translation, the patent application will fail.

A patent translation team needs a deep understanding of the technical terms and industry-specific jargon needed to create a reliable translation of the patent description. Additionally, they’ll consider the unique requirements of the recipient of the patent application.

Flare for legalese

Patent translations are often classified as legal translations, so you’ll need someone fluent in the target language and patent legalese.

Complete attention to detail is crucial when it comes to translating legal documents, and it requires a two-pronged approach.

One must thoroughly understand terms related to patents in the original language. On top of that, they must also be versed in the proper terminology in the target language.

The content cannot be altered in the slightest, and the meaning must be crystal clear. Again, even a slight error can cause hold-ups or lawsuits that can seriously hinder your innovation.

How can you ensure high quality patent translation?

First, partner with a reputable translation agency.

Long-term cooperation with one language services provider has many advantages.

It’s much more cost-efficient than sporadic translation orders for several or several dozen translators.

Why? You tap into translators who specialize in many fields.

Time is often an important factor in patent and grant translation. You need an extensive database of translators who produce express, effective translations.

Benefit from modern translation technology when possible

Due to the specialized nature of patent translation, legal experts often perform the bulk of the translation. Certain elements of patent content may be conducive to advanced machine translation or artificial intelligence, but let humans handle sensitive or confidential content.

And look, MT engines can translate thousands of words in minutes, whereas a human can translate 3000–3500 words per day. Quicker turnaround times are a hallmark of MT, not to mention the cost savings.

Here, though, even the slightest error or ambiguity can have damaging consequences, generate disputes, and have a major impact on the success of your patent application. You can’t simply feed all information pertinent to your patent into a machine translation tool and expect optimal results.

You can, however, get assurances that come with human quality checks in a post-editing process. Post-editing refers to human revision and refinement of content after it has been machine-translated.

We’ve found AI is best for EVALUATION as a quick step between MT and PE that can save both time and money without costing you in terms of quality.

Trust legal and linguistic experts with the sensitive and confidential aspects of your patent application. To save time, you can run some basic aspects of your patent through the machine translation process, test its accuracy with AI, but always be sure to review it with post-editing by humans for the best balance of speed, cost, and accuracy.

The Best Patent Translation Services Built for You

There’s no one way to approach translation projects. We’re big on flexibility around here and offer the specialized services to back it up.

It’s a sliding scale between pure human translation and handing everything over to the machine.

Human translation is slow but solid, and it comes at a cost. The quality, though, is premium.

Machine translation tools make things quick and simple, and you can get it done inexpensively. The quality, as we’ve seen, isn’t outstanding.

But with AI evaluation and post-edited machine translation, you can achieve a greater semblance of balance.

We consider all the factors before rolling out a custom price.

And if you don’t know exactly what you need, we can help figure it out.

Learn more about Summa Linguae’s patent translation services and get in touch to get started.

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