Patent translations

Unfortunately, translations in the field of patents received shabby treatment for a long time. This has changed significantly as a result of the European patent, free trade in Europe and the strong growth of the emerging countries and developing nations and due to jurisdiction in Europe.
Whereas there were still many patents that were only registered and granted in the USA, Japan and a few European countries 15 years ago, these cases tend to be rare nowadays. The growing number of members of the European Patent Convention and ultra-modern factories settling in the former Eastern Bloc countries in Central and Eastern Europe alone have increased the number of countries per validation significantly. Soon, China will be the country with the largest number of patent applications.

Applications in the area of plant protection products are generally submitted in Brazil, Russia and other countries that used to be know as "exotic", while South Korea and Taiwan are a must for patent applications in the high-tech industry. Not to mention a few very important applications such as those for drugs or – an example from the past – plastic bottles, which are submitted in most of, or even all of, the countries in the world. Of course, the countries that are selected vary markedly depending on the respective industry. Applicants in the area of sports footwear will target countries different from those targeted by a producer of a remedy against prostate cancer, for example.

In most countries, a translation is required to even submit an application. There are exceptions of course, such as English-language patent applications when submitted in English-speaking countries and countries permitting applications in English like Singapore or Indonesia.
This, though, is not the only context that translations are needed in.

During the granting procedure, offices (e.g. the USPTO) may require translations of publications in foreign languages or assume that publication of the application to be examined would be harmful, so that the applicant must provide a translation before they can deal with the office.
The volume of translation becomes even larger when a patent must be defended before a court in the USA. In this case, it may very well happen that tens of thousands of pages will have to be translated.
Regardless of whether you are a patent specialist, a service provider or an inventor, you will have to figure out how to find a high-quality translation at a reasonable price.

The following are the most common options:
Language service providers;
Freelance translators;
One or the other person might also mention free-of-charge online translation.
There are pros and cons to each of these options.
A larger-sized provider of language services can take on very large volumes in many different languages and diverse fields. Quality assurance is normally performed using the four-eyes principle along with a final check, and certificates are issued to confirm the correctness of the translation. This, though, exacts a high price. The quality of the translations can vary depending on the freelance translator employed. Beyond this, subcontractors are used in part so that the actual translator receives but a fraction of the price quoted.

ea patent wissenswertesAnyone turning to a freelance translator will have to invest significant time and resources in project management, as they will need at least two translators per language (one for the translation, the other one for editing) to meet their delivery deadline. In this case, the client, will also have to handle any questions themselves. As the translators have other clients as well, the client can never be sure of their availability. This is why a patent attorneys' office covering multiple fields ends up building its own translation agency in the course of time. That way, they can achieve lower rates. However, it is doubtful whether these savings exceed the internal costs incurred.

Even if progress has been made in the area of online translation services in recent years, the quality they can achieve is still a long way away from that required for patent applications and proceedings. As anyone can easily verify themselves, these programs are barely able to deliver comprehensible translations of even comparatively simple texts. When there are minor technical differences, this can result in grave consequences in proceedings for the applicant.

Differences like those between "umfassend" and "bestehend in German, "comprising" and "consisting of" in English may be crucial in patent law.
And then there is Tetrapod Translations – a small provider of language services who offers you services in multiple languages in the field of patent translations. Among other things, we always make sure that our prices are fair for our clients and for the individual translators we contract at the same time.