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2020.03.02

Patent translation

What is Patent Translation? – Patent Translation explained for Beginners


In a lot of our blog articles, we talk about patent translation but have never taken the time to explain what patent translation actually is. In this article, we want to explain what patent translation is for someone that is a complete beginner in this area.

What is a patent?

First, we need to explain what a patent is. A patent is a form of intellectual property that gives the owner the right to exclusively use an invention for a certain period of years. In exchange, therefore, the invention is publicly disclosed so that other inventors can profit from the knowledge. An invention must meet certain criteria to be patented. The invention is specified through words and drawings in a document called patent specification.

What is patent translation?

Patent translation refers to translating documents that are required during the patent filing process, which can include the patent specification, notices issued from a patent office, amendments made to the patent, correspondence between patent attorneys and other documents. Patent documents use a certain style of writing that is different from regular literature.

Why and when do you need patent translation?

There is no worldwide patent system. In general, a patent needs to be filed separately in all countries, where the applicant wants to obtain the patent right. In order to file a patent in a foreign country, certain documents need to be translated, e.g. if a foreign applicant would like to file a patent in Japan the patent specification needs to be translated into Japanese. These translations are provided by patent translators.

What qualifies a translator to be a patent translator?

A patent translator must have very good knowledge of the languages they translate between just like every translator. Besides that, a patent translator also must be familiar with patent specific terms and the certain writing style patent documents use.

Additionally, a patent translator must have technical knowledge so they can understand the technical background of an invention and translate it correctly. Most patent translators focus on a certain technical field and only translate patents in this field.

What kind of documents does a patent translator translate?

Patent Specifications

First, there is the patent specification. It contains a description of the invention, the technical background, embodiments of the invention, patent claims and if necessary, drawings. The claims define the scope of the invention; therefore it is especially important to translate the claims as close to the original as possible to obtain the same scope in every country.

Office Actions

A patent needs to be examined before a patent right is granted. If the patent examiner finds reasons why an application does not fulfil the requirements for a patent, they will issue a notice called office action informing the applicant about the reasons. These are issued in the language of the country where the patent was filed and need to be translated for foreign applicants to file an appropriate response.

Other documents

The document types mentioned above are the most common ones. Besides that, sometimes amendments need to be translated as well. Amendments are filed to revise or amend a certain part of the specification to correct mistakes or to overcome reasons mentioned in an office action. In certain situations, there also might a need to translate correspondence from patent attorneys.

We hope you found this small introduction about patent translation helpful. If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us or comment below. If you are interested in learning Japanese patent translation, please check the website of our language school transeuro academy where we offer a variety of courses.


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